In recent years, the number of Canadians switching to plant-based diets— either for health, environmental, or ethical reasons — has increased. But finding dairy product substitutes that do not lack in flavour and texture can be a huge challenge for many. Eliminating certain foods altogether, or resorting to substitutes that are either sparsely available or more expensive, appear to be the only options.
Margaret Coons, founder and CEO of Nuts for Cheese, noted this toss-up between taste and health when it came to finding non-dairy cheese substitutes during her five-year tenure as a vegan chef in London, Ontario. Established in 2015, Nuts for Cheese uses fermented cashew milk and traditional cheese-making methods to make ‘grate’ plant-based cheese alternatives. The company’s five palatable products, including an ‘un-brie-lievable’ coconut cashew blend, act as affordable and flavourful refrigerator staples for dairy-free eaters across Southern Ontario.
After receiving Ontario Centres of Excellence’s support through the SmartStart Seed Fund, a program that provides young entrepreneurs with seed financing and financing for skills training, Nuts for Cheese went above and beyond their expected targets for 2017.
“We are so thrilled to have already greatly surpassed our targets for our second fiscal year and are looking forward to continued, sustainable growth as we enter our third year of business!” Margaret Coons says.
With the funding, the company grew their team to 14 employees, upgraded their facility, and developed a comprehensive strategic plan. Improvements were seen through steady increases in their average monthly sales and exponential growth in their production capacity. Nuts for Cheese also expanded their geographical reach from 32 stores and restaurants in 2016 to over 200 Ontario retailers in 2017. The next step in the company’s path to dairy-free domination is to extend distribution even further, so that their vegan and lactose-free cheeses are more readily available to customers around the country.