Daiya Foods: ‘We’ve expanded our scope to be a plant-based food company for consumers throughout their day’

By Elaine Watson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Not so long ago, dairy and meat alternatives were niche categories for vegans and vegetarians; today they’re driving a new ‘plant-based’ movement. But does plant-based necessarily mean healthy, and can brands in this space meet demand for cleaner labels?

Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA at the Natural Products Expo West show, Michael Lynch, VP marketing and strategy at Canadian plant-based specialist Daiya Foods, said consumers were selecting plant-based for a variety of reasons, from sustainability and animal welfare to allergies and intolerances.

However, he acknowledged that consumers widely perceive and expect them to be healthy or even healthier options, and that brands in this space therefore have some level of responsibility to deliver on the nutrition front [we saw our fair share of ‘plant-based’ junk food at the show this year].

“We try to make our foods as healthful as possible in terms of nutrition and absence of negatives,” ​said Lynch, who said Daiya had just signed a lease on a new manufacturing facility 10 times the size of its current operation.

Our yogurt is probably our most nutritionally dense product, where we’ve got protein, calcium, and fiber in there as well. But as more and more manufacturers begin to develop plant-based foods, the onus is on them to make sure that …  not only are they jumping on the bandwagon of the popularity of plant-based, but also that they are bringing as much nutrition to the consumer as possible.”

As for the ingredients lists of plant-based dairy and meat alternatives – which can be lengthy and run counter to consumer demand for shorter, simpler, labels – he said: “When we develop products that a) taste delicious and b) have as clean a label as possible.

daiya-ExpoWest18

Daiya Foods​ - which was founded by Greg Blake and Andrew Kroecher in 2008 as a dairy-free cheese business - now sells everything from dairy-free pizza, ‘cheezecake’ and ‘cheezy mac’ to burritos, frozen desserts and yogurts in 25,000+ stores. It was acquired by Japanese firm Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co​ in summer 2017, but the entire senior management team – and the founders – have stayed on, said VP marketing and strategy, Michael Lynch.

“We started out as a dairy-free cheese brand, but we’ve expanded our scope to where we want to be a plant based food company for consumers throughout their day.”

“But sometimes we have to add a few more ingredients in order for it to taste good, in order for it to be the right texture, and in order for the cheese for example to melt and stretch, which is what consumers are looking for.​”

Read more HERE​ about Daiya, which launched a flurry of new products at the show including a ‘meat lover’s’ pizza made with plant-based sausage and pepperoni, dairy-free cheese and a gluten-free crust; 'Duet' yogurts with 5-6g plant-based protein per serving; dairy-, gluten-, and soy-free burritos with 7-12g plant-based protein; non-dairy frozen dessert bars; and dairy-free cheese sticks.

ICVN 2018: ‘Not all plant-based diets are created equal…’

ICVN-audience

People on a primarily plant-based diet are consistently slimmer and healthier than meat eaters, with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and type 2 diabetes, according to research unveiled at the 7th International Congress on Vegetarian Nutrition (ICVN).

But not all vegans and vegetarians are eating healthily, stressed speakers at the event, which attracted more than 750 delegates.  Read more HERE​.

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