Vegetable cheese or “faux-mage”, the increasingly popular alternative –

The range of plant-based alternatives to cheese is increasingly varied. On the planet of what is also called “false magic” there are even Swiss products. A growing market that, however, will not be enough to endanger the traditional cheese sector.

“Greek White”, “Veganella”, “Raclette vegan”, “Babybel vegan”: in the fresh produce section of a supermarket, the range of alternatives to cheeses made without animal milk is very wide. Coop alone, for example, offers no less than 25 references. Something to delight consumers who are lactose intolerant or looking for a diet with fewer animal products.

The leading company in this market in Switzerland is called New roots. Around 200,000 vegan cheeses are produced every month in Oberdiessbach (BE), in the heart of Emmental, where it is based. “We mix organic cashews with water. This gives us a plant-based milk and we make all our products from this plant-based milk,” explains Alice Fauconnet, co-founder of New Roots. From fermentation to maturation, everything is done according to the rules of a traditional cheese factory.

30 employees

Created in 2015, the young company has already taken root. It sold more than 3 million products last year, employs 30 people and exports to seven European countries. Your raw material? 150 tons of organic cashew nuts from Vietnam and Burkina Faso imported by boat. An aspect that not everyone agrees with, but Alice Fauconnet defends herself.

“We all drink coffee in the morning and eat chocolate, especially in Switzerland. These products we accept are all imported. Waiting for vegan cheese on the corner because we import our raw materials is a bit unfair.”

The mushroom flavor is definitely present. The Roquefort side, the blue Auvergne side or things like that are good. On the other hand, on the texture side, we forget

Claude Luisier, cheese refiner in Valais

Aware of the challenge, the company is testing products based on Swiss chickpeas and lupine seeds. “We would like to maintain a line of products made from cashew nuts. But we would also like to support dairy farmers who want to do so in Switzerland, so that we can then buy their production and make cheese with their ingredients.”

When it comes to the flavor of these 100% vegetable cheeses, Basik turned to Claude Luisier, a cheese refiner in Valais but also a reference on social media. The latter tested vegan raclette, an imitation cheddar, as well as a vegetable roquefort. “The mushroom flavor is there. The Roquefort side, the Auvergne blue side or things like that, is good. On the other hand, on the texture side, we forget”, analyzes Claude Luisier. For him, these products must adopt their own name.

And the success is there since these “false magicians” are a success. In 2021, the global market reached more than 2.15 billion francs, with an estimated annual growth rate of 13% until 2030.

Don’t worry about Gruyère Interprofession

In any case, Interprofession du Gruyère doesn’t seem concerned about the growing success of plant-based cheeses. “The first cheeses date back to around 1000 years ago. If it were a completely unsustainable product, it would no longer exist”, highlights Philippe Bardet, director of the Interprofession de Gruyère (IPG).

Especially since the global cheese market represents more than 75 billion francs, or 30 times more than the vegetable cheese market. In Switzerland alone, cheese exports alone already reach 735 million francs.

“A tribute” to traditional industry

In Geneva, the Vegan cream was the first in French-speaking Switzerland to launch into plant-based cheese creations. The signature product of the season is vegetable fondue, also made from cashew nuts. The aim of this offer is to defend food without products of animal origin. “It is not a war on the cheese industry, as we are directly inspired by its know-how. It is rather a declaration of love, a tribute to all this know-how”, guarantees Malena Azzam, co-founder of the company.

The average basket of a Laticínios Vegano customer is 40 francs, a higher value than that of a traditional dairy. “We put ourselves on the same level as a neighborhood cheese shop. And therefore, we can’t buy in bulk,” she continues. The current objective is to invite yourself to the gastronomic tables.

Like Vegan Creamery, the world of cheese alternatives is above all synonymous with innovation. Enough to continue to feed a thriving market.

Jeanne Gerbault/fgn

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