Bite focuses on new vegan cheese that adds another category to the range of vegan alternatives

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The cheese of the future is vegan and made in the kitchen… By you!

We have become accustomed to them - the vegan alternatives to well-known animal classics are becoming increasingly popular on the supermarket shelves. But it is not easy to be the new kid in the class, and in spite of a growing interest, plant fish, soy milk and all the other new foods are often critisized by both consumers and experts. Is it also as sustainable as it is made to look? Is the chef replaced with a chemist in an apron? And what about the nutrients?

Exhibitior CheesItYourself is accustomed to skeptisicm. The startup company has developed a new type of vegan cheese, which can be the first step towards a completely new category of vegan alternatives. The new vegan cheese does not look like cheese at all until you yourself have been in the kitchen. It is a Do It Yourself product where you have to mix the company's powder with the boiling water left over when you have cooked chickpeas. The powder consists solely of natural ingredients such as cashew nuts, and when mixed with chickpea water - also called aquafaba or vegan egg - and boiled 5-10 minutes, it gets solid form and taste like cheese. The proteinaceous aquafaba is already widely used by vegans for mayonnaise and other commodities, Here it replaces the animal products and acts as a natural emulsifier. Then different spices are added along the way or after cooking.

Greek Ioanna Anagostara is one of the four students from DTU who have developed the product and founded the company. They work daily within Food Tech, and CheeseItYourself is proof that technology can develop new, sustainable products, without the need for a metaphorical taste of laboratories and plastic gloves that many associate with the new vegan products that pops up in a wind stream for the time being. We asked her why consumers now have to make their own vegan cheese:

“We really want the consumers to take more responsibility for their consumption. For example, we generate 290 kilos of food waste each year. With CheeseItYourself, consumers learn to use the raw materials more efficiently and thereby reduce their food waste, while allowing them to experiment and be creative in the kitchen. ”

Green powder cheese

The Do It Yourself concept is important for CheeseItYourself, who wants to focus on homemade food that is cooked in the kitchen but still does not take up too much in everyday life. At the same time, the product's powder form provides a significant advantage in the sustainability accounts, Ioanna explains:

"Because we use powder and do not add water ourselves, we save 57% of the CO2 emissions during transport. The goods fill and weigh less, and they should not be cooled down - neither in the transport nor in the supermarket. And then vegan cheese is, in general, a more sustainable alternative, as dairy products generally leaves a very large carbon footprint. ”

However, CheeseItYourself goes further and looks holistically on the entire value chain. Veganism, sustainability and increased consumer responsibility and creativity are supported by a nutritionally good profile. There is no hocus-pocus in the recipe, which consists of the proteinaceous aquafaba and powder of natural ingredients composed after many trials with different seeds and nuts at DTU's laboratories. And, unlike many of the ready-to-eat vegan cheeses, CheeseItYourself's cheese is not based on the calorie heavy coconut oil or artificial ingredients.

The vegan paradox

But it's not an easy market One of the challenges is that consumers, on the one hand, want the cheese to remind as much about milk-based cheese as possible. Partly so they know what it can be used for, and partly because you are more comfortable experimenting with well-known raw materials. But the paradox is that the product on the other hand must not be too close to the dairy's well-known cheeses, Ioanna says:

"Consumers are always skeptical when a product looks like something familiar without being familiar. If our cheese reminds too much of the milk-based cheese in fragrance and taste, it may seem artificial and make people suspicious. No matter how natural it is. But what vegans miss most in their diet is cheese, and so we have chosen to go as close to the real deal as possible. Our cheese resembles, smells and tastes much like conventional cheese, and it can certainly be a challenge for some consumers. ”

The sum of a sustainable profile, natural ingredients and a sensible nutrient content may be enough for CheeseItYourself to become the new star on the vegan night sky. But after all, food is about taste. So how does it taste?

“People are very excited and interested in this. The best proof of this is that we never have leftovers after a tasting when we participate in competitions and at fairs. Everything is eaten! However, it is always easier to convince vegans than non-vegans, who often focus heavily on the difference between the new product and the conventional. But we get a positive response from both camps, ”says Ioanna.

The right values and a possible premiere of Bite 19.

Ioanna does not see veganism as yet another food trend, as the movement is so closely linked to sustainability that has become a permanent factor in the food industry. And sustainability is also the crucial motivation for the four founders:

“This project is not about creating profit. We want to contribute to growth in veganism and be a small piece in the puzzle of change. Sustainability is paramount to us. That's why we also participate at Bite, which is the platform for a wide range of exciting new ideas and with their sustainable profile fits us perfectly. We see it as the obvious place to even introduce a brand new product for the first time. A vegan fresh cheese made on fermented plants. We look forward to being a part of Bite! ”, Ioanna Anagostara concludes.

Cheese it Yourself is not yet in the shops, but when the four students finish their education at DTU Food Technology this summer, the plan is to go full-time on the project. Apart from Ioanna, which comes from Greece, the team also consists of Panagiota Dima - also from Greece - as well as Carmen Masiá and Hernán Gómez from Spain.

Visit Bite Copenhagen 2019

You can register as a visitor to the international B2B food fair Bite Copenhagen 2019, which takes place in Bella Center Copenhagen on 28 and 29 August. It is free to join for professionals from the food industry and you can sign up here https://bitecopenhagen.dk/visit.

Christian Vejlund