Food & Nutrition


March 07, 2022


10 min read


Plant Power: How IMCD Benelux tackled the cheese analogue challenge


Thanks to growing consumer demand for healthier, more sustainable options, plant-based products present an opportunity for brands to strengthen their position in the market. As more people search for alternatives to dairy-based cheeses, cheese analogues have gained mainstream appeal.

Between 2015 and 2019, the global market demand for non-dairy cheese increased by 23%, and it continues to grow. Non-dairy cheese was the fastest-growing subcategory across global “plant-based” dairy launches from 2016 to 2020.


In honor of Plant Power Day (March 7), which brings awareness to the benefits of sustainable eating and plant-based diets, IMCD is celebrating the recent launch of its customer’s new cheese analogue.


Based in the Benelux region, this long-term customer is a well-known leader in the dairy industry. Recognizing an opportunity to expand its product range and meet consumer demand, the brand aimed to set a new benchmark by investing in its vegan cheese production line.



Tapping into IMCD’s technical expertise

For its launch of non-dairy cheese products, the customer enlisted IMCD’s technical expertise and support. “As a global ingredient distributor, IMCD is not only attentive to market trends, but also has the capabilities to offer solutions that deliver on those trends,” says Lies Pipeleers, IMCD Taste Market Manager on this innovation project. “Our Food and Nutrition Business Unit understands what matters to consumers and transforms market trends into added-value solutions for product innovation.”


With the base recipe in place, the customer turned to IMCD as an expert in food flavours to bring the final product to fruition. The challenge was to create a range of different tastes of non-dairy cheeses. In order to be successful, these new cheese analogues had to offer a similar sensory profile and physical characteristics to its dairy-based equivalents.


Choosing the right ingredients was crucial because taste is the number-one reason for customer purchase and repeat purchase. To appeal to consumers, the team knew they needed to offer a sensory flavour experience that did not compromise on taste and texture.


Using their expertise in food ingredients and flavour innovation, the IMCD technical team stepped up to find the right flavour solutions. The process began with reviewing previous experiences and successes and applying the technical expertise of the taste and laboratory teams.



Finding winning food flavours

In collaboration with a leading flavour supplier, the team created a selection of seven different flavours. Next came a process of trial and error and a range of tests with the customer. Ultimately, IMCD presented proposals for the cheese analogue options that meet customer requirements. The customer approved and implemented a mozzarella and a goat cheese flavour in newly developed recipes that could be offered in a variety of textures, such as grated, chunks, or flakes.


“This process and its ultimate success is a testament to the technical expertise and professional customer support of the Food and Nutrition Benelux Team,” says Lies. “We help our customers develop successful product innovations with our powerful combination of market knowledge, technical expertise, and lab facilities.”


IMCD contributed natural food flavours that provide an authentic taste and creamy mouthfeel that differentiate the customer’s new range in the plant-based cheese market. (Discover IMCD’s parmesan vegan cheese). The flavours are also allergen-free and clean-label, providing sustainability as consumers look to reduce animal product consumption.

Leadership and partnership in a growing cheese analogue market

Throughout this project, IMCD kept its partners front of mind, applying its experience in plant-based solutions to help evolve the market. Between 2016 and 2020, the number of non-dairy cheese launches grew by 29%, compared to only 1% for dairy cheese launches. Looking to the future, the cheese analogue market is expected to continue growing at a rate that surpasses that of the dairy category.


IMCD’s customer is now well-positioned to become a leader in the expanding cheese analogue market. Its non-dairy cheeses offer the flavour and texture consumers desire, as well as the health and sustainability benefits that appeal to those looking for plant-based gourmet products.


To learn more about IMCD's Food & Nutrition business, our portfolio and our technical expertise, click here or visit IMCD Benelux.