Goodfoods is taking on the artisanal cheese market with plant-based alternatives to some of Europe’s – and the world’s – most popular cheeses.
Using a cashew nut base, founder Michal Peleg is ‘reinventing’ mozzarella, parmesan, brie, and smoked gouda, she told FoodNavigator at FoodTech IL in Tel Aviv last month.
Conventional cheese is manufactured with heavy reliance on natural resources, the entrepreneur continued. Whereas Goodfoods’ products use “zero factory farms, simple processes, and only nutritional benefits”.
Indeed, Peleg said production of her cheeses reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 99%, and use less water, land and energy, compared to their dairy-based counterparts.
Peleg ‘fell in love’ with classic cheeses while living in Italy. “I love mozzarella, and mozzarella on pizza,” she told this publication. When Peleg returned to Israel, and turned from vegetarian to vegan, she noticed a gap in the market for ‘sustainable, nutritious, and delicious’ cheese substitutes.
“My challenge was to develop something that I like, as a vegan. Something that I had before [in Italy], that I could enjoy now,” she explained.
The entrepreneur has been developing her offerings over the past year and has successfully piloted the products – under the brand name Micol's – in vegan stores in Israel, where they have ‘sold out fast’.
‘Tastes like the real thing’
All of Peleg’s recipes are based on cashews. She uses a fermentation process with heating, cooling, and steam pressure to achieve different textures in her offerings.
Being minimally processed was important to the entrepreneur. “There are many [cheese] substitutes in the supermarkets today, but they are not as healthy as people think. So I decided to make my products as healthy as I can.”
The ingredient list for the parmesan, for example, includes cashew nuts, pine nuts, nutritional yeast, and spices. “I don’t use any gums,” she revealed. Her products contain zero cholesterol, and up to 22.5% protein, as well as essential minerals and vitamins.
Concerning flavour profile, Peleg said they ‘taste like the real thing’. Their texture has also been developed to mimic the originals. The parmesan alternative, for example, has been created in the Parmigiano Reggiano style with a ‘non-stabilizing texture’.
The mozzarella has good meltability and ‘a little bit of stretch’, she said.
Currently twice the price of industrial mozzarella, Goodfoods hopes to attract investment and scale in order to source cashews directly from Vietnam. “They are expensive,” she confirmed. “But it depends where you buy them. The closer to get to the source of the cashews – like in Vietnam – [the] cheaper [it is].” Scaling up to increase quantity orders would also help reduce prices. “It’s all market supply and demand,” she told us.
And scaling is certainly the objective: “I want it to be sold in Italy. I want to produce a version for the supermarket and a version for the deli, and I want it to be available for everyone.”