In making this decision, Daiya conducted a survey that found 41% of Americans say they try to swap out dairy from their diet whenever it's convenient. However, many bagel shops already offer vegan bagels, but don’t usually have a non-dairy spread to accompany them.
This campaign will have the participating bagel chains expand their menus with ‘Daiya Dairy-Free Shmear’ that contains 90 calories per serving in an effort to “cater to a wider variety of dietary lifestyles and opening the door to a larger customer base.”
Michael Lynch, interim CEO of Daiya, said, "With plant-based, dairy-free options increasingly in demand, our partnership shows that leading national establishments like these are committed to their customers and to offering the very best quality and delicious alternatives to dairy cheese to better meet their evolving lifestyle needs and dietary preferences.”
Customizing dietary choices
According to nationwide chain Einstein Bros. Bagels, 70% of their bagels are already dairy-free, so adding a dairy-free shmear option was a simple decision. For now, the partnership with Daiya is limited, and customers can order the vegan shmear now through February 28.
Jose Alberto Dueñas, CEO of Einstein Bros. Bagels, said, "Our guests have requested dairy-free options and we heard them loud and clear. We're thrilled to offer dairy-free alternatives, among our other menu offerings. We are committed to creating new ways to cater to our guests' dietary needs and chosen lifestyles."
The Einstein Bros. Bagels website lists the cream cheese alternative: “Smooth and creamy is the best way to describe Daiya's dairy-free Plain Spread. It spreads easily on a bagel and for a perfect, guilt-free topping. It will be become the creamiest and the dreamiest addition to your breakfast.”
Einstein Bros. Bagels is also adding an almond milk alternative to its menu, courtesy of Caribou Coffee houses. The new Caribou Coffee Almond Milk Latte is available at locations nationwide.
Registered Dietitian Kelly Springer, MS, RD, CDN, said, "Plant-based alternatives are becoming more popular because of the variety of their health benefits. Not only is it important that guests have menu options from a dietary perspective, but also from a food allergy perspective."
Bruegger’s Bagels announced the partnership with Daiya along with several other better-for-you menu options, helping consumers to “stick to their New Year’s diet resolutions in 2019 by offering all-new sandwiches and ingredients to suit a healthy lifestyle.”
Bruegger’s operates more than 220 locations across the US. Noah’s New York Bagels was born out of a New Yorker’s desire to bring big city bagels to the West Coast, where it has more than a dozen shops in California.
Tyler Ricks, president of Bruegger’s Bagels, said, “Our fans are telling us they want more ways to customize their favorite menu items to fit their lifestyle and dietary needs. By offering ingredients like egg whites, dairy-free Daiya Cream Cheeze Style Spread and avocado, we are giving them the chance to customize their diets to meet their nutrition needs.”
Cows vs. plants
This expansion of vegan options in restaurants comes at a contentious time in the dairy industry. It’s at odds with the plant-based community over labeling restrictions and the use of dairy terms for non-dairy items.
Dairy and plant organizations alike recently submitted public comments to the FDA while it collected feedback on the debate before making further decisions. Dairy brands and dairy farmers believe customers are confused by the labeling of products like almond milk.
The Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative released its comments last week, “demanding the [FDA] no longer turn a blind eye to misleading labeling” and “take immediate action to enforce existing regulations that define dairy foods as originating from cow’s milk.”
They also said that “the lack of FDA action has led to an ‘anything goes’ mentality in the marketplace,” and that “labeling plant-based products to mimic milk, cheese, yogurt and other real dairy foods betrays the trust of customers who equate dairy with health and nutrition.”
However, the Plant Based Foods Association disagrees and has presented its own evidence that consumers are not confused by plant-based labels. In their own public comments, Michele Simon, executive director of PBFA, called the campaign to restrict non-dairy companies “a solution in search of a problem.”
“The marketplace disruption being pushed by the dairy lobby would hinder innovation, create untenable costs for our members, and ultimately be found unconstitutional, making the entire effort a waste of everybody’s time and resources. We encourage the FDA to abide by free market principles and not restrict labeling to unfairly favor the dairy industry,” she said.