In a world of infinite choice and individual action on matters such as animal welfare, the ‘mainstreaming’ of alternative diets presents new challenges and opportunities for food services providers.

One of the biggest growth areas for alternative diets is veganism – a food choice which sees adherents abstain from all animal derived food products, including dairy and eggs, consuming only plant-derived foods. The proliferation of food manufacturing technologies means that, in this modern world, there are many more alternatives available to vegans to substitute plant-derived foods for those important proteins. Soy and almond milk for your latte, tofu and soy products as meat and protein replacements, and increasingly sophisticated manufactured replacements for meat and, can you believe it, cheese.

In Britain recently, Dairy UK has written to a non-dairy cheese retailer to demand that it no longer uses the term cheese to describe its products. In the trade sensitive European Union, where geographically specific brand names such as Champagne are protected from use elsewhere, food product substitutes which reference the original product are also frowned upon – an issue which has also started to emerge in other countries such as Australia.

Food manufacturing advances provides more alternatives to vegans.

The growth of veganism as a dietary choice has rapidly grown over the past decade. Mock meat market share has grown significantly since 2010 and it is estimated that around 50% of Americans drink plant-derived milk substitutes such as soy milk. Australia is the third fastest growing market for vegan products behind China and the United Arab Emirates. In association, dairy industry advocates worldwide are actively pushing governments to legislate for association of identity rules to prevent substitutes referencing dairy terms such as milk and cheese.

So what really is the issue? Vegan dairy substitute marketers claim that this is simply the dairy industry attempting to block market access and that intelligent, informed consumers are capable of discerning between dairy and non-dairy products. Dairy advocates and marketers claim that the dietary benefits of dairy are strong and well documented and that vegan products are simply trying to gain market access and replacement by word association.

Fromage or faux-mage? What’s your cheese?

Whatever side of the farm you pick, it’s an absolute truth that diet preferences are growing and changing and people will continue to make their choices known in the supermarket aisle. However, there is simply not substitute for a great tasty, melty cheese the next time you go for that good old grilled cheese on toast comfort food.

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