With plant-based eating on the rise, vegan cheese is gaining popularity as something that more people are looking to incorporate into their diets. Whether or not these dairy-free alternatives can be labelled as “cheese” has been a recent topic of controversy. We take a look at the “cheese” vs. “cheeze” debate and weigh in with our thoughts.
Why is cashew cheese sometimes called “cheeze”?
For years, non-dairy cheese makers have been using the word “cheese” to describe their products, but there’s been a recent crackdown on what that term can now be applied to. Fellow nut-based cheese makers Blue Heron, were recently told by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency that they needed to drop “cheese” from their marketing. They’re not the first plant-based cheese makers to run into trouble either. There have been a handful of small companies that have been told that they either can or can’t use “cheese” to identify their dairy-free products. The reason? Apparently, it’s misleading and can lead to consumer confusion over whether the product they’re purchasing contains dairy or not. The regulations have been laid out so loosely that some companies have flown under the radar without issue, while others have been forced to make very costly changes to the language they use to describe their products.
It seems though, that change is coming. “Cheese” will soon be a word open to all makers of cheese-type products. Upon further review, the CFIA reversed their position with regards to Blue Heron, and notified them that they are permitted to use “100% dairy free, plant-based cheese” in their marketing and advertising. This is a big win for vegan cheese makers who are looking market to consumers looking for plant-based options.
Where is the pushback coming from?
There’s one obvious theory: the dairy industry. Most of the complaints that the CFIA receives about the use of the word “cheese” come from anonymous sources. In a recent article, The Globe and Mail states: “According to the CFIA, the number of dairy-product complaints increased to 415 in fiscal 2017-18 from 294 in 2013-14. This all comes at a time when the traditional dairy sector is feeling threatened by factors such as changing consumer tastes, the new food guide and recent trade deals that have increased the amount of dairy products that can enter duty free into Canada.” Despite their efforts in retaining the term for themselves, it seems the dairy industry might have let go as it’s looking more likely that “cheese” will be a term opened up to the public.
Dairy doesn’t make it cheese
This is a claim that is certain to rub some people the wrong way. There are those that insist that in order for something to be called cheese, it must be made from dairy. But, here’s where we disagree. It’s not the dairy that makes cheese “cheese,” but the different types of bacteria used in the process that actually produce different varieties of cheese. Those bacteria create different acidities and textures when they feed on the lactose in dairy. This process can be applied to nut-based milk and the results—when done well—yield products similar in taste and texture to many of the types of cheeses you know and love. Active bacterial cultures are added to the nut base, and when they feed on the carbohydrates it produces flavours like the ones you get with dairy cheeses. So it’s really the bacteria doing the work in the cheese making process.
So what should vegan cheese be called?
What do you think, does the term “cheese” belong solely to those products made from dairy? Can vegan cheeses—like cashew cheese—also be called “cheese” or should they be labelled as “cheeze” to avoid confusion? Should there be a different term altogether? We want to hear your opinion on this controversial topic! Comment below this post or on our Instagram page and tell us what you think: cheese, cheeze or something else?