Danone-backed Forager Project launches line of plant-based cheeses

Source: fooddive.com

Dive Brief:

  • Forager Project is launching a new line of organic plant-based cheeses called Cheeseworks. The dairy-free cheeses include queso fresco, jack, shredded mozzarella, shredded parmesan and shredded jack. 
  • Using Forager Project’s probiotic cashew milk yogurt as the base, the company said the product can perform like regular cheese when it comes to melting and stretching.
  • Launched in 2013, Forager Project counts dairy giant Danone as a backer through its investment arm, Danone Manifesto Ventures. Danone bought a minority stake in the family-owned startup in October 2019.

Dive Insight:

Forager Project is launching its new products into the increasingly crowded plant-based cheese space. As consumers include more plant-based foods in their diets, companies are responding with a variety of offerings to meet the skyrocketing demand

This includes seasoned food manufacturers like Tofurky, which launched Moocho, a line of dairy-free cheeses, cheesecakes and vegetable spreads, in February 2020. Follow Your Heart, which was purchased in February by Danone, has plant-based cheeses, along with its signature egg-free mayonnaise Vegenaise. Canada’s Daiya, which started offering dairy-free cheeses 10 years ago, has proven to be a consumer favorite as it adds new products to its portfolio. And Danone’s plant-based So Delicious Dairy Free brand expanded its offerings in January to include shredded and sliced cheeses.

As demand increases, many companies have indicated they plan to build our their plant-based offerings. In August, Good Planet added Bart Adlam as CEO. The seasoned executive is familiar with the dairy space, having worked at Icelandic yogurt maker Siggis where he helped grow it into a $150 million brand before it was purchased by Lactalis in 2018.

In May 2020, Good Planet raised $12 million through a Series A funding round to accelerate product development as well as sales and marketing. A year earlier, plant-based food manufacturer Parmela Creamery raised $1.25 million to scale up its line of cheeses, spreads, dips, sauces and ravioli. 

With so many brands entering the plant-based dairy space, Forager Project will need to promote its brand and communicate with consumers about why its products are different. Forager Project already markets itself as a family-owned and operated company while emphasizing its organic certification. It is expanding into a few segments outside of plant-based dairy including cereals and chips — a move that should help increase its exposure and brand recognition.

There seems to be plenty of market share to go around in plant-based cheese. Sales in the nascent segment were about $1 billion in 2019, according to Grand View Research. The category is expected to nearly triple to $2.66 billion by 2027.

Even with a promising market opportunity, Forager Project will undoubtedly need to tap Danone’s expertise and guidance to stay competitive. This includes not only capital but access to Danone’s network and expertise. With major brands like Activia, Silk and Evian in its portfolio, Danone has experience in creating and growing brands across a variety of segments that resonate with consumers. 

In return for an investment in Forager Project, Danone is able to further expand its plant-based portfolio. With its traditional dairy business slowing, Danone has been investing heavily in its plant-based business, most notably through its $12.5 billion purchase of WhiteWave in 2017. A year later, Danone pledged to increase its global plant-based sales from $1.9 billion to $5.7 billion by 2025 as part of its sustainability commitments.