National Cheese Day is fast approaching (20 January) and already, exciting launches are happening in the vegan cheese world. From Babybel going green with its first-ever vegan mini cheese wheel to a vegan version of the M&S classic cheese twists, alternative cheese is certainly having it’s moment in the spotlight – and it looks like it’s here to stay.
Demand for dairy goes off
Anyone following non-dairy cheese or milk products won’t be surprised. As with non-dairy mylks, demand for plant-based cheese has been increasing steadily since 2016, with a compound annual growth rate in product sales of 9% according to Fact.MR. This is expected to go up to 12.4% from 2021 to 2028, and forecasts expect the market to be worth a whopping $3.9 billion by 2031 (an increase from 2021 when it was ‘just’ $924.4 million).
Cut dairy, not the cheese
As consumers seek healthier alternatives to traditional dairy products, a plant-based lifestyle and vegan diet are often part of those choices. The health benefits tied to dairy-free products – including lower blood sugar levels, reduced exposure to hormones and antibiotics, improvement in digestion issues, but there is still resistance from dairy lovers.
While swapping dairy for oat milk in your coffee is one thing, giving up “real” cheese is entirely another. In the UK, one survey found dairy products remain one of the biggest barriers to change for 40% of respondents, even more than 32% who were unwilling to give up cow’s milk.
Here in Hong Kong, we’re lucky to be spoiled for choice with both commercial brands and local, independent cheesemakers to supply our every cheese dream, minus the dairy.
Big brands like Daiya, Miyoko, Sheese and MozzarRisella deliver amazing cheesy goodness and are stocked at some of the city’s most beloved green shops (from Green Common to KIRR to Slowood and more mainstream markets like Wellcome, PARKnSHOP and City Super.)
Even more excitingly, artisanal cheese makers are getting more creative with unique plant-based cheeses in an array of flavours and textures to keep your salads and fromage boards on point.
Stock up on your favourite vegan cheese and discover some new ones along the way with these Hong Kong-based vegan cheese makers:
Built on the principles of the whole food plant-based diet, sisters Althea and Tansy Tan have been making vegan cheese for their family members for years when they saw an increase in demand for their nut and seed-based creations. With a goal to help people transition their eating habits to whole, good quality foods, their products are made with probiotics to promote gut health and you can find all the standard cheese go-tos including parmesan, brie, burrata, gouda and their newest series: cream cheeze and cheeze bombs.
Learn more about Happy Plantarian here.
At La Taula, or the table in Catalan, raw vegan chef Kanchan Porta-Punjabi’s plant-based treats are the pinnacle of “culinary art meets ultimate nutrition”. Not only are her range of vegan cheeses made with a cashew base and packed with probiotics, but they’re also delivered on thoughtful ceramic dishes, ready for serving. The ceramic dishes can be delivered back to La Taula or taken to Candle Up where you can have them turned into an artisan soy based candle (with La Taula a discount too). All of La Taula’s packaging are also compostable and recyclable in an effort to minimise waste.
Learn more about La Taula here.
If anyone knows a thing or two about cheese, even dairy-free cheese, it would be the French. Raw vegan chef Tina Barrat translates the ethos of her celebrated fine dining restaurant, Ma… and The Seeds of Life, into Hong Kong’s first ever plant-based cheese shop, Le Fromage, located at K11 Musea. Leveraging nutritionally-dense ingredients, such as cashew and almonds, Barrat has conjured over 20 types of vegan fermented raw cheese from the creamy pink peppercorn brie to the semi-hard nutty sharp cheddar to Gorgonzola-inspired fermented tofu North Pole Star.
Learn more about Le Fromage here.
Small batch, plant-based and made in Hong Kong, chef Jan Yeung has made a name for herself and her vegan culinary creations over the past 15 years in the city’s fine dining scene and most recently, in her work with Grassroots Pantry and Nectar. Garden Hill is chef Jan’s acclaimed cheese program, which combines science, education, and the highest quality ingredients, resulting in delicious cheese varieties for sandwiches, salads, pastas and cheese boards.
Learn more about Garden Hill here.
If you’re after the taste of aged cheese, don’t sleep on Nuteese, the only aged plant-based cheesemakers in the city helmed by chef Amy Elkhoury. Handmade with cashews, almonds and macadamia, these artisanal cheeses are characterised by their distinct flavours, derived by a highly monitored ageing process that takes place in the Nuteese cellars. Each cheeze can be enjoyed by itself or as a condiment or accompaniment to a cracker, and even come with individual wine pairing recommendations.
Learn more about Nuteese here.
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See also: Hong Kong’s Best Plant-based Puddings and Poon Chois For Chinese New Year