Startup Spotlight

From DIY to nationwide: How Bandit built its vegan cheese business

By Deniz Ataman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags vegan cheese retail channels

In this episode of Startup Spotlight, Bandit’s Founder Bo Babaki discusses how his passion project making vegan cheese eventually landed him a distribution deal with Lancaster Farm Fresh in 2020 and secured a $1.5 million investment from VC firm Prime Movers Lab the following year, helping to expand Bandit's presence on the east coast, and later across the nation.

Born from DIY roots in Philadelphia, Pa, farmers’ markets in 2018, Bandit developed its presence as a vegan cheese brand in food service and later in retail.

Since the distribution partnership with Lancaster Farm Fresh on the East Coast and Pod Foods on the West coast, Bandit is now “all over the country,” including all Erewhon locations in California, but the company’s “bread and butter” relies on wholesale shipping to “funky co-ops,” Babaki said.

He credited Bandits’ national distribution to a New York Times​ article​ that featured the company alongside several other cheese makers.

In 2021, venture capital firm, Prime Movers Lab sought Babaki to offer a $1.5 million capital raise that would allow the company to expand the team and its commercial operations.

“The investment allowed us to … build the creamery out a little bit more and hire a little bit for the future and get people trained up. … But then also buying the big machinery was a big deal because we were using blenders,” Babaki said.

Bandit’s funding also allowed for a rebrand that evoked a more playful image “that stands out,” said Babaki

Bandit now is available direct-to-consumer at or, Babaki added.

Standing out with a clean ingredient list

The cashew-based cheeses, inspired by brie, bleu cheese, goat cheese and cream cheese, are made via fermentation with cultures, lactic acid, coconut oil and water to achieve a comparable taste and texture to their dairy counterparts.

Babaki emphasized the clean ingredient list of each cheese variety, including the cave aged cheeses which are more about technique and aging and take longer to develop.

“Our cheese base is cashews, filtered water, coconut [oil], cultures, salt,” Babaki said, adding that it is the same for Bandit’s “bloomy rind cheeses that are aged in the cave” and require “additional surface cultures."



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