Another popular cheesemaker has rolled out new plant-based cheese products, and just in time for those who wish to make a new year’s resolution to eat less animal-based foods. Last week on this side of the pond, France-based Bel Group announced that The Laughing Cow wedges will soon appear in milk-free form.
In addition, a plant-based cream cheese product under the Nurishh brand will make its debut on January 1.
Plant-based cheese has been in the midst of a particularly long journey when compared to how meat alternatives have performed. While some brands such as Miyoko’s Creamery deservedly have a strong fan following, other companies within this space have stumbled. The problems: a funky way of melting (some plant-based cheese products simply don’t, at all), an unappealing texture and, face it, there’s not a lot of nutrition in a food that’s mostly packed with potato starch and coconut oil.
The result is that it’s often easier to find a plant-based burger than a cow-free grilled cheese. Some fast-food and foodservice companies, such as McDonald’s, have given up on meat- and milk-free alternatives entirely for now here in the U.S.
But Bel Group may be onto something. The company felt confident enough after the rollout of the performance of its plant-based cheese alternatives that currently fall under the Babybel and Boursin labels. Its brands also have a strong following among consumers who turn to Bel Group’s products for school and work lunches and sorting out an appetizer platter on a whim. So, if you grew up with The Laughing Cow or are quick to reach for a sack of Babybel mini-rounds, considering a plant-based option isn’t too far of a stretch.
The company has engaged partners that are helping its brands chart a plant-based course. Recently, Bel Group bought a stake in Standing Ovation, a France-based company that has developed a precision fermentation process to make animal-free casein, a typically milk-based protein that is integral in cheesemaking. In addition, Bel Group has been working with Perfect Day, another food technology company that can recreate dairy proteins that are milk-free. Finally, Superbrewed Food provides its own brewing process for some of Bel Group’s products.
For those who have been quick to predict the demise of the plant-based food sector in the wake of the bad press surrounding some brands like Beyond Meat, here’s a gentle reminder: Food technologies like the ones with which Bel Group is partnering are still scoring impressive amounts of funding.
Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.
Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.