10. Eater: Vegan Cheese Is Ready to Compete With Dairy. Is the World Ready to Eat It?
I’m one of those people that is lactose-intolerant but eats dairy anyway and then complains later. I don’t have a super dairy-heavy diet, but I do usually keep half-and-half and at least one variety of hard cheese in the fridge, and I adore ice cream in the summer. I have never been one to favor non-dairy varieties of dairy products (apart from nut and oat milk in certain drinks), but I’m also not vegan.
Over the past five to ten years, the vegan cheese market has dramatically grown—“the global vegan cheese market was valued at just over $1 billion in 2019 and is expected to grow almost 13 percent in the next seven years,” writes Alicia Kennedy. There are three tiers of the vegan cheese market: “the nonfermented oil-and-starch vegan cheese that you can find at most grocery stores” are found at the bottom, “above that is cultured, or fermented, plant milk cheese, which is made by adding probiotics and enzymes to nut or oat milk in order to create curds and whey,” and at the top “small-batch artisan vegan cheese, the kind that oozes, stinks, and blooms as convincingly as its dairy counterparts.”
It might seem like this is a lot of variety for a relatively small market, but “The three tiers of vegan cheese found in grocery stores are not necessarily in competition with one another,” Kennedy writes. “Vegan cheese companies are producing options for distinct markets, whether they’re a grocery-store chain or an artisanal cheese shop, and also for distinct uses: Sometimes you want vegan cheese that melts in a scramble or grilled cheese sandwich; sometimes you want vegan cheese that looks pretty and can be eaten on a cracker. But given that vegan cheese is still very much a niche product — unlike plant-based burgers, which are marketed to meat eaters, it is peddled largely to a captive audience, namely vegans and the lactose intolerant — there is still plenty of confusion about what it is, or what it can be.”
I appreciate that there are so many dairy-free options for normally dairy products, but I’m still skeptical. For now, my stomach will just have to deal with dairy.