Capital V, the VC firm founded by prolific vegan investor Michiel van Deursen, announces it has funded the Amsterdam based craft cheese producer Willicroft, marking the first investment in the alternative cheese category for Capital V.
Founded in 2018 by Brad Vanstone, who was born into a family of UK dairy farmers, the brand’s This is Not Cheese range has more than doubled yearly. After successful rollouts into the Netherlands and Belgium in 2020, Willicroft expanded the range into the UK the following October. The cheeses are currently made with cashews, though the brand is experimenting with other local ingredients that will change the footprint and taste of the product range.
Speaking to vegconomist last November, Vanstone explained: “The reason plant-based producers use cashews as a base ingredient is because they’re high in fat and protein. These components are crucial to dairy cheesemaking so when making a plant-based replacement this was the base we sought too. We, therefore, trialled around 30 alternative ingredients that had similar nutritional properties to cashews (and therefore milk) whilst also factoring in other considerations such as cost, water content, availability, neutral flavour, and their locality to the Netherlands.
“This research and experimentation brought us to beans and pulses. These ingredients will lower our emissions due to reduced processing and transportation and could also be a gateway to us beginning our transitional farming projects where we help dairy farmers transition away from dairy by planting the ingredients on their land.”
Capital V’s van Deursen stated to vegconomist that whilst exploring the European plant-based cheese market, Willicroft was the startup that really stood out for its innovative cheese products, connections within the plant-based space, and for the fact that it is applying to be a B Corp. “Being Dutch, cheese has always been a big part of my life since my childhood. Of course, cheese is not environmentally or animal friendly at all, so since being vegan, I am always seeking out plant-based alternatives that also give me the taste of my childhood.
“I found that in Willicroft – the product is amazing, and above that, they produce it with the lowest footprint in mind. They have a mission-aligned, ambitious team, and I am excited to see Willicroft cheese in retail all over Europe.”
Vanstone spoke today about the investment: “I have known Michiel for 18 months now and he is a very well connected and important member of the PBC community who has also recently been given a role within the EU commission on climate change. He brings with him a wealth of experience of investing in plant-based companies.”
Capital V was early investor in companies including The Vegetarian Butcher, Heura, and The Very Good Food Co. Willicroft will now begin its Series A round to accelerate the points of sale and expand product range.