Interviews

Nuts for Cheese: “Within One Year of Market Entry We Gained National Distribution With Products in 45 States”

Nuts for Cheese started life as a plant-based cheese brand when founder and CEO Margaret Coons was working as a vegan chef and used the kitchen after hours to create her own original dairy-free cheese recipes.

Nuts For Cheese makes a premium, organic line of indulgent cashew cheeses, and has gone from strength to strength, recently reporting that it has seen 50% year-over-year sales growth as it increases distribution across the US.

“We offer innovative flavors not often seen in plant-based cheese”

We were excited to chat with Margaret about her artisan cheeses, their rapid growth and her plans for the future. 

What is the origin story of Nuts for Cheese?
I started Nuts For Cheese while working as a vegan chef and introducing a plant-based cheese board to the menu. It quickly became one of our most popular items with guests repeatedly asking where they could buy it in stores! In 2015 I decided to open a farmer’s market stand in London, Ontario and was overwhelmed with positive reception from consumers and local retailers who wanted to carry our products.

Nut for Cheese triangles on white
©Nuts for Cheese

We scaled organically through Ontario, then Canada and in 2021 we became Canada’s first artisan vegan cheese producer to launch in the US. It’s been quite a journey!

Please describe your product range and where it can be found.
Our organic, artisan, cashew cheese and butters can be found at retail banners across North America. Nuts For Cheese is available in seven unique flavor profiles including Un-Brie-Lievable, Black Garlic, Super Blue, Artichoke & Herb, Smoky Gouda, Chipotle Cheddar and our holiday wedge, Cranberry Pink Peppercorn. Our cashew cheeses make a stunning charcuterie centerpiece and versatile ingredient – they melt, spread and shred, while offering a creamy indulgence.

“Our cashew cheeses make a stunning charcuterie centerpiece and versatile ingredient”

Our newest product line, Nuts For Butter, can be used as a substitute for dairy butter on a 1:1 ratio. Available in Salted Original, Herb & Garlic and Unsalted Original flavors, Nuts For Butter melts, sizzles and spreads, and comes baking-ready in two 1/2 cup sticks. You can check out our recipe page for creative inspiration!

Nut for Cheese triangles on board
©Nuts for Cheese

Has the recent move into the US natural channel proven successful so far?
Launching into the highly competitive and innovative US market during a pandemic, and in the lack of international travel, trade shows and demos, certainly came with its challenges.

“we’ve been overwhelmed by the rapid growth and humbled each time a new US retailer takes on our products”

Truthfully, we’ve been overwhelmed by the rapid growth and humbled each time a new US retailer takes on our products. Within one year of market entry we gained national distribution with our products available in 45+ states and we are thrilled to add Sprouts to our growing list of US retailers this June!

Nuts for Cheese cranberry
©Nuts for Cheese

In a competitive segment, how do Nuts for Cheese products stand out?
We get a lot of positive feedback that retailers and consumers love our unique, colorful packaging. Nuts For Cheese comes in a triangle shaped box which allows for creative and eye-catching merchandising on shelf. We offer innovative flavors not often seen in plant-based cheese, like our Brie and Blue or hand-painted rind varieties Smoky Gouda and Black Garlic, which are visually appealing and cater to the growing charcuterie board trend.

Taste is another factor – because our manufacturing and ageing process is similar to that of dairy cheese, our products are creamy, decadent, and delicious. 

Do you feel the plant-based cheese market is maturing (no pun intended) or still in an early stage?
A big resounding YES! I’ve been vegan from an early age and am elated by the growing popularity of plant-based foods. Today the options are truly endless and it’s exciting to be at the forefront of the movement.

With that said, I do believe plant-based is just getting started and will continue to grow rapidly as more consumers introduce plant-based options into their diets.

Nuts for Cheese Brie with baguette
©Nuts for Cheese

As a Canadian company, what factors make Canada a good environment for vegan startups?
Canada is known for its vibrant food manufacturing sector and our hometown London, Ontario offers a range of support for food businesses. In our early stages, we participated in incubator and accelerator programs which offered mentorship and other startup resources. Canadians are also increasingly adopting vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian diets which offers a strong consumer base.

Do you have plans for further expansion into international markets?
We still see abundant opportunity in Canada and the US where we will focus our efforts for the foreseeable future. In the long term we may look to South America or Europe, where we’ve had some interest.

What other plans do you have for the coming years?
I am excited for our next phase of growth, adding new team members, and introducing new Nuts For vegan products to the market! As we approach our 7th birthday as a company, it’s humbling to see how far we’ve come and exciting to see where the next 7 years will take us.

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