Lifting the lid on vegan cheeses

What do you think of when you hear ‘vegan cheeses’? Within the industry it’s not well understood or widely used – but it is a rapidly growing market with veganism on the rise. At The Restaurant Show 2019, we got to grips with vegan cheeses and how to use them on the menu with cheese writer Patrick McGuigan and Stuart Mills, Divisional Executive Chef of Young's Pubs.

As the tasting got underway, Stuart Mills told us about the popularity of vegan cheese on pub menus: “Our customers are reacting really well to the dairy free cheeses. With the ever-growing interest in vegan and plant-based meals it is vital that we keep up with the demand. The range of cheese available makes it easier and more fun for the chefs to create exciting dishes that in turn delight our customers.”

The audience looked on as a series of mouth-watering images of dishes featuring vegan cheeses were shown including a vegan feta, compressed watermelon, bobby bean & toasted almond salad, vegan nachos, vegan mozzarella stuffed seitan burger, vegan cheesecake and even vegan halloumi fries.

Patrick McGuigan presented some compelling stats – such as how 33% of the population have stopped or reduced their meat consumption (Waitrose Food report 2018). The number of vegans has also quadrupled in the last four years to 600,000 (Vegan Society). Clearly, vegan cheeses present plenty of opportunities for the industry.

Finally, it was time for the audience to cast their votes for the best vegan cheese – a show of hands seemed to suggest Violife’s Greek Style Block, a feta alternative, was the most popular. However, there was plenty of healthy debate, with high levels of audience participation in this lively session. If you missed out, take a look at The Restaurant Show’s live tweets to learn more about this fascinating discussion.

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