A niche business

In the upcoming November issue of Dairy Industries International, we take a look at plant-based “cheeses” in some depth. It is a niche market now, and industry experts think it will continue to be one in the future. As Julian Melletin says, “plant-based cheese is a solution in search of a problem.” However, big dairies are investing in the products, including Saputo UK and the Bel Group. In a way, these folks are best placed to develop plant-based products, as they have a lot of experience in making actual cheeses.

However, let’s face it, a collection of microbes in milk makes the cheese segment one about taste. In a way, cheese is an art form as much as a product, in a way that plain milks are not. It takes a skill set to transform milk into delicious, demandable cheese, along with some time and a bit of luck in conditions being appropriate.

Further, the joy one has in going into a cheesemonger cannot be replicated in a laboratory, I’m afraid. When we went to London a couple of weekends ago, we wandered into Neal’s Yard Dairy near Covent Garden and enjoyed a session of nibbling cheese and then buying some. A cheese-based feast was that night’s meal. For plant-based items, we had apples, some damson jam, walnuts and a bit of chutney to accompany the glorious spread with fresh baguettes and oatcakes (more plant-based items).

Cheese is one of the food products that people enjoy globally. While plant-based foods are lovely in accompaniment with the cheese, the dairy products take a well-deserved top billing. Also, keeping the fruit as fruit and nuts as nuts, is a better use of their natural flavours then trying to transform them through a lot of processing, into an inferior, plant-based “cheese.”

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