Plant-based Babybel debuts as part of dairy-free line-up to help Bel Brands reach more consumers

By Elizabeth Crawford contact

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Bel Brands
Source: Bel Brands

Related tags: dairy-free cheese, plant-based, Dairy alternatives, Cheese

For cheesemaker Bel Brands USA, the fast-growing plant-based movement is not a threat to the “natural dairy goodness … at the heart of our cheeses,” but an opportunity to better live its motto – “for all for good” – by dramatically expanding its non-dairy offerings to meet the needs of more consumers.

“Our mission is really about delivering healthier and responsible food for all, and ‘for all’ includes consumers who choose not to or cannot eat dairy products. We want to make sure that we have an alternative there in the non-dairy space for them, too,”​ the company’s chief marketing officer Shannon Maher told FoodNavigator-USA.

Which is why, beginning next month and continuing over the next two years, Bel Brands will launch a slew of dairy-free options across its beloved Babybel and The Laughing Cow brands and continue to build out its wholly-plant-based Nurishh portfolio – all of which will draw on the company’s well-established expertise making French cheese for more than 150 years.

“Ever since we launched Nurishh ​[in 2020] as our first kind of wholly-plant-based brand, which really relies on our expertise in French cheese making to strike a balance between the genuine cheese taste and its meltability and spreadability and all the comfort that you get with cheese but with plant-based goodness, consumers have been asking us ​‘When are you going to launch a plant-based Babybel?’” Maher said.

The answer: next month.

“We are super, super excited to bring iconic Babybel into the non-dairy space nationally next month and offer that same Babybel experience that consumers are used to,”​ including the playfulness of unwrapping the wax before biting into a mozzarella-tasting snack, Maher said.

To help consumers distinguish between the dairy and plant-based versions, the later will sport a bright green wax wrapper instead of the iconic red which will be reserved for the dairy-based. Other than that, the coconut oil based Babybel is all about mimicking the Babybel snacking experienced consumers love, she said.

Building a plant-based snacking cheese segment

The launch not only expands the reach of Babybel to a new consumer set, it helps fill out the sub-segment of snacking cheese, which Maher says doesn’t really exist, yet.

To further develop the plant-based snacking cheese segment, Bel Brands also plans to launch The Laughing Cow Plant-based to consumers in 2023. Like Babybel, The Laughing Cow’s iconic bite-size wedges of individually wrapped cheese are easy to eat on-the-go alone or as a spread.

The company also plans to introduce under its Nurishh portfolio this spring snackable cubes of Cheddar Style and Hot Pepper Style non-dairy cheeses.

Beyond snacks, and also under the Nurishh platform, Bel will introduce a cream cheese style spread in plain and chive varieties, parmesan style shreds, hot pepper styles slices and a slice variety pack with two packs of cheddar style slices and one of mozzarella style slices.

Teaming with consumers

Recognizing that cheese holds a special spot in many consumers’ hearts and that plant-based versions have historically fallen short delivering the same experience and function as expected of dairy-based cheese, Bel Brands worked closely with consumers to ensure their needs were met.

“We’re a family-owned, 150-year-old company of experts in cheese making and we’re really excited to bring that to the non-dairy space,”​ but the reality is the non-dairy cheese segment is entirely new with new processes, ingredients and blends being developed, Maher said.

And so to make sure they get their plant-based offerings just right, she said, the R&D team opted to co-develop the Babybel plant-based version with consumers.

“It was very much this iterative process and we had multiple rounds where we would send the same consumers the product, outline the changes we made and ask them what their thoughts were,”​ she explained. “Ultimately, the consumers are the ones who told us that the product was good and ready to go.”

The new launches will build on the company’s Boursin Dairy-Free, which launched in October 2020 and which, Maher says, has earned a phenomenally positive response from consumers.

“We feel really great about the products that we have out there today,”​ but we are also eager to continue innovating and iterating as new technologies and ingredients become available to make plant-based cheese that delivers just as its dairy-based counterparts, Maher said.

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