The cheeses (SRP $5.99) will be available at retailers including Fresh Thyme, Sprouts, Central Markets, and Stop & Shop in the spring, said co-founder and CEO Stephen Williamson, who launched the first Forager Project products (HPP veg-forward cold-pressed juices), in January 2013, and has since branched out into nut milks, smoothies, cashew-based yogurts, and ‘pressed vegetable’ chips made with pulp left over from juice pressing.
With the dynamics of the HPP juice market changing rapidly, the San Francisco-based firm has ditched its juices and is now more focused on its plant-based dairy products, although the chips are still part of the portfolio, Williamson told FoodNavigator-USA.
“I think about this as a journey. Foraging is all about wandering and seeking, so the cheeses were a logical extension for us as we were seeing what we could do with our cashew yogurt in-house. We’re also coming out with whipping cream and ice cream, which have come out of this mentality of wandering and seeking.”
The new CHEESEWORKS organic, dairy-free cheeses - available in chunks and shreds - come in four variants (Jack, Queso Fresco, Mozzarella, and Parmesan) and have “incredible melt and stretch” without the use of modified starch, said Williamson.
“But it’s still early days for the plant-based cheese market, so there will be a continuing evolution as the category develops.”
While COVID-19 had significantly dented sales of Forager’s ‘grab & go’ products in 2020, other parts of the business such as multi-serve cashew-based yogurts had benefited from the move to at-home consumption, said Williamson, who would not share revenues, but said: “We are growing strongly.”
Ingredients (organic dairy-free Jack): Forager Project Yogurt (cashewmilk (filtered water, cashews), tapioca starch, coconut cream, cultures), water, coconut oil, maize starch, tapioca starch, sea salt, calcium phosphate, natural flavors, fava bean protein flour, cultured dextrose, lactic acid
The retail market for plant-based cheese has heated up significantly in recent years, while the arrival of plant-based burgers and other products in leading fast-food/QSR chains has also stimulated demand for plant-based accompaniments from egg and cheese to mayo in the foodservice market.
The first wave of brands used a combination of oil and starch as a base (Daiya, Follow Your Heart - plus more recent entrants such as Violife and GOOD PLANeT), while a second wave of products from brands such as Miyoko's Kitchen, Treeline, Kite Hill, and Nuttin Ordinary, deployed cultured nutmilks (cashews, almonds etc) as a base.
Chao (from Field Roast) use a mix of tofu and starch, while Miyoko's has also branched out beyond nuts as a base material and experimented with navy beans, oatmilk and other ingredients as it expands its portfolio.