UK supermarket giant Tesco, who have so far been a driving force in the distribution of plant-based products in the mainstream market, have expanded their own-brand range of dairy-free cheeses to Ireland, the 10th largest dairy export nation in the world. The dairy industry in Ireland is a key component of their national economy, with around 7 billion litres of milk processed every year by 18000 family farms. Irish dairy products were valued in 2017 in the order of €2.7 billion.
Last year, Ireland’s Farmers Journal reported to their farming readership that the Dublin-based vegan distributor Art of Zen would be selling their Violife cheeses at Tesco stores around the country, mentioning that, “The product is designed to melt and shred like regular cheese.” Soon after, the desperate Irish dairy industry broadcast one advert describing cow’s milk as “natural” and “plant-based” due to the fact that the cows consume only grass. The advertising campaign, in an attempt to claw back at plant milks, used the slogan: “There’s only one ingredient in milk – milk!”
Just nine months later, Tesco have announced in July 2018 the expansion of their own line of dairy-free cheeses in their Irish stores. The coconut-based, gluten-free range includes a Blue Style Wedge, Mature Cheddar Wedge, Sliced Red Leicester, Grated Mozzarella, Grated Parmesan, Smoked Cheddar Round, and Soft Cheese. These products are expected to be well-received by the growing vegan population in Ireland, where for example the vegan Happy Pear cafes and stores are seeing huge success. Dairy sales have been rapidly declining, with almost 35% of consumers cutting back on dairy products, and dairy bosses have admitted that the industry is ‘facing an existential crisis’ due to veganism.