Cheese is a beloved global household staple. According to IRI, total U.S. dairy and deli cheese sales reached almost $22.5 billion, up 19.4%, for the 52 weeks ending January 24, 2021.a Furthermore, global new cheese launches rose 11% in 2020. The U.S. share of new cheese launches in 2020 was 10%, followed by France and Germany each with a 6% share, according to Mintel.b Consumers’ love for cheese extends beyond dairy and there is interest in plant-based cheese. According to ResearchandMarkets, the global vegan cheese market is expected to be worth $5.64 billion by 2028, growing at a CAGR of 12.4%.c Whether it is dairy-based or plant-based, consumers have a soft spot for hard and soft cheese.
The Big Cheese
According to Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, in 2020, the average U.S. consumer ate about 40.2 pounds of cheese.d A YouGov survey of over 8,000 adults, found that America’s favorite cheese is Cheddar with 19% of respondents citing it.e Other favorite cheeses in the study included:
- American cheese 13%
- Mozzarella 9%
- Swiss 8%
- Pepper Jack 7%
- Colby Jack/Monterey Jack 7%
According to Mintel, the pandemic fueled an increase in cheese consumption. For example, 43% of Americans are eating more cheese than a year ago and 29% of cheese buyers in the Republic of Ireland, say the coronavirus has seen them buy more cheese.f Furthermore, 34% of U.S. Generation Z who eat cheese, strongly agree that they enjoy cheese as a comfort food.g Datassential FLAVOR data revealed that 81% of consumers love or like cheese.h
A notable publicity stunt that involved cheese, was Velveeta’s response to the $11.7 million “Castello Coin” gold cube that was displayed in Central Park on February 3, 2022. Inspired by German artist Niclas Castello’s art, Velveeta designed a giant eight-foot gold box of Velveeta that appeared in Central Park on February 4, 2022. Velveeta stated their “gold brick of cheese is known for its velvety richness and cheesy, melty goodness.”i
Trilogy’s dairy flavor chemists create delicious cheese flavors that range from popular to trendsetting. For example, Trilogy offers dill, roasted garlic, and onion as well as black truffle, chipotle, and jalapeno flavors. Depending on the flavor, our leading-edge cheese profiles are oil-soluble or water-dispersible for use in hard and soft cheeses, and all offer more consistent flavor throughout each cheese product. See our top flavors for cheese here or request your samples here.
Say Plant-Based Cheese
Like other plant-based markets, plant-based cheese innovation is thriving. Data from sustainability platform abillion shows that interest in vegan cheese increased by 2.6 times between July 2020 and June 2021.j Technomic’s 2023 Trend Predictions Fourth Quarter Report found that plant-based cheese is showing notable growth potential and was up +146% in 2021.k Similarly, Datassential found that plant-based cheese is one of the quickest-growing trends on burger menus, with the term “vegan cheese” surging by 598% in 2021.lU.S. News & World Report predicts that plant-based charcuterie, featuring non-dairy cheese options, will be a top food trend for 2022.m
Interest in vegan cheese is not just a U.S. phenomenon. For example, plant-based cheese sold in German supermarkets has grown 150% between 2018 to 2020 (17 million euros to 44 million euros), according to Nielsen.n
Research from Tetra Pako, discovered global consumers are interested in plant-based cheese:
- 86% of Indian consumers
- 82% of Chinese consumers
- 60% of Brazilian consumers
- 59% of South African consumers
- 36% of German consumers
- 32% of American consumers
A telltale sign of the significance of plant-based cheese is the market activity coming from large multinational food manufacturers. For example, The Bel Group, known for popular cheese brands such as Babybel and Boursin, has entered the plant-based market. Last year, Bel Brands USA introduced Nurishh, a new line of vegan cheeses offered in three types of sliced cheese and three types of shredded cheese. In addition, the brand launched a Plant-Based certified and non-GMO project verified Boursin dairy-free version of its Garlic & Herbs flavor. This year, Babybel debuted Babybel Plant-Based wrapped in a recyclable green wax coating. Additional Nurishh products are launching in the spring and Laughing Cow Plant-Based is expected in 2023. Like The Bell Group, iconic cream cheese brand Philadelphia by Mondelēz International has debuted Philadelphia Plant Based Deliciously Creamy Almond and Oat Based Alternative in the UK sold at Tesco.
Whether your customers are lactose intolerant, allergic to dairy, have dietary restrictions, or prefer to avoid animal-derived proteins, Trilogy offers a selection of flavors for hard and soft vegan cheese. See our top flavors for plant-based cheese here or request your samples here.
Vegan Cheese Missing Pull – Taste & Texture Fall Short
Plant-based technology has advanced and vegan formulas are more sophisticated with many that closely mimic the taste, texture, and characteristics of their animal-based counterparts. However, many of the available plant-based cheese options fall short in terms of taste and texture. For example, Mintel’sf data showed:
- 67% of Canadian consumers agree plant-based alternatives don’t taste as good as the foods (meat/dairy) they replace
- 82% of UK cheese buyers say taste is the main factor influencing cheese choice and plant-based cheese alternatives do not meet expectations
Additional Mintelp research revealed European consumer’s top four reasons for not using plant-based cheese:
This sentiment is echoed in a Vegconomist.comn April 15, 2021 article, which states “consumers aren’t entirely positive about the cheeses: various studies showed that consumers who have bought plant-based cheeses are dissatisfied because of their price, the low nutritional value, and a disappointing, unnatural taste.”
R&D formulators recognize technical issues associated with plant-based formulas and that “without the functionality of dairy proteins and fat, plant-based versions require multiple ingredients, combining hydrocolloids, starches, and fibers to replicate the stringy-stretch as well as meltability, which consumers expect.” q To address the formulating challenges of plant-based cheese, Danone North America partnered with Future Food-Tech to launch an innovation challenge to improve the properties of vegan cheese. “Plant-based cheese alternatives is one of the most technically challenging categories when it comes to dairy alternatives, especially when it comes to stretch and melt because casein is the only protein known to deliver those functionalities,” says Takoua Debeche, Chief Research and Innovation Officer at Danone North America.r
An Opportunity to go Mainstream
As consumers continue to incorporate more plant-based products into their diet, there is an opportunity for brands to expand their product lines to include vegan hard and soft cheeses. Companies will set themselves apart by developing plant-based cheese products that achieve a familiar texture and taste to their animal-based counterparts. To encourage consumption of dairy alternatives, companies should offer new varieties of healthier prepared meals using these plant-based cheeses and share recipes with information on how to cook with them.
Consumers don’t want to sacrifice taste or flavor when choosing animal-free products. Make your alt food and beverage formulas flourish with Trilogy Flavors’ vegan line of flavors designed specifically for plant-based applications. See our complete vegan flavors list here and request your samples here.
b Roux, Caroline, “The Future of Cheese 2021” 1, January 2021, Mintel
f Koyenikan, Ayisha, “Put Cheese At The Centre Of The Plate” 22, September 2021, Mintel
g Roux, Caroline, “Teach Gen Z Fun Techniques To Cook With Cheese” 7, September 2021, Mintel
k Technomic Industry Insights “A roundup of noteworthy foodservice findings for the week of Jan. 24, 2022”
p Faulkner, David, “Ready Meals Can Prove Plantbased Cheeses’ Credentials” 6, August 2021, Mintel