New partnership to enhance Canada’s plant-based cheese market

By Jim Cornall

- Last updated on GMT

Pic: Getty Images/Big Cat Corp - Stock Services
Pic: Getty Images/Big Cat Corp - Stock Services

Related tags plant-based Dairy alternatives Cheese plant-based cheese Veganuary

Protein Industries Canada has announced a new project to leverage the combined strengths of Lumi Foods (legacy brand Blue Heron Creamery), Winecrush Technology and Save-On-Foods to enhance Canada’s plant-based cheese market.

This includes developing new products, as well as giving them a more prominent placement in grocery stores across the country.

The partners said they hope the project will demonstrate the full potential of Canadian innovation. The partners will use Lumi Foods’ cultured cheesemaking methods—which enables the continued use of the term “cheese”—to create a new line of plant-based cheeses made from Canadian-grown crops, including oats, legumes and pulses.

Their development represents a step forward in the plant-based cheese realm, both in terms of labeling and ingredient use, as most plant-based cheeses are currently made from ingredients sourced outside of Canada.

“This new project truly showcases the innovation happening right now in Canada. With this innovation, we will be able to provide locally made food options for Canadians looking for dairy-free options or who follow a plant-based diet. The Protein Industries Supercluster’s investment in this project will assure us that we are producing the next generation of plant-based cheese, here in Canada,”​ said the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry.

Once developed, the plant-based cheeses will be sold in Save-On-Foods locations across Canada, specifically in deli sections. This will be the first time plant-based cheeses will be alongside dairy cheeses, signifying the importance of making plant-based options easily accessible to Canadian consumers. To help ensure the plant-based cheeses are shelf-stable for longer, Winecrush Technology will test shelf-extending ingredients in the recipes, including dietary fiber and unsaturated fatty acids.

“It takes true dedication to evolve a sector, and that’s exactly what’s happening with this project,”​ Protein Industries Canada CEO Bill Greuel said.

“Lumi Foods, Save-On-Foods and Winecrush Technology are proving that through innovation and collaboration, new plant-based products, specifically cheese, can be made with Canadian-grown ingredients – a first for Canada. It is through innovation like this that our country will become a world-leader in the production of plant-based foods, helping us reach our goal of C$25bn (US$20bn) in sales by 2035. Plant-based products are healthy, nutritious and delicious it’s time they’re also easy to find in grocery stores.”

In addition to expanding the line of cheeses, the partners said they are also dedicated to strengthening Canada’s plant-based cheese sector as a whole. To help make this happen, they will work with the University of Alberta to perform complementary research, focused on identifying strains of microbes that can be specialized for plant-based cheesemaking. This research will help improve the flavor, structure and aroma of plant-based cheeses, meeting consumer demand for plant-based products that are healthy and sustainable while also tasting good.

The partners have together invested C$5.4m (US$4.3m) in the project, with Protein Industries Canada investing an additional C$5.4m.

“This funding allows us to fully embrace the work of a decade,”​ CEO and co-founder of Lumi Foods Karen McAthy said.

“With this funding, we can further develop and advance plant-based and animal-free dairy alternatives, and importantly, do so on an expedited timeline while working with Canadian-grown ingredients and solutions. I would like to acknowledge our partners in this consortium: Winecrush, an innovator closing the loop on wine industry waste, and retail partner Save-On-Foods, for their forward thinking in creating space within their deli section for plant-based cheese. As a consortium, we aim to work to create a new cheese culture for all Canadians.”

“We are pleased to partner with Protein Industries Canada, Lumi Foods and Save-On-Foods as world-class partners to create the next generation of plant-based cheese,”​ Winecrush Technology CEO Kirk Moir said.

“Our mission is to valorize agricultural sidestreams with the power of fermentation. We are advancing the performance of our patent-pending upcycling process focused on the power of polyphenols to produce transformational food ingredients that enable plant-based food producers to close critical gaps in taste, texture, price and clean-label nutrition. Working with this consortium, we are working to address key requirements focused on shelf life extension, an increasingly important consideration in our global food chain including plant-based cheese.”

“Save-On-Foods has more than 100 years of experience as a leader in bringing innovative products to market and giving customers more than they expect,”​ said Brenda Kirk, senior vice president of merchandising with Save-On-Foods.

“We are thrilled to be part of this project alongside other industry innovators to raise the profile of plant-based cheeses, and give our customers more options when it comes to Canadian-made, high-quality plant-based cheeses. We couldn’t ask for better partners to share the leading edge of this exciting category.”

This is Protein Industries Canada’s 25th technology announcement, and its 31st overall. Together with industry, it has invested more than C$451m (US$361m) into Canada’s plant-based food, feed and ingredients ecosystem.