For more than 100 years, Bel Group has brought its take on traditional French cheesemaking to consumers around the globe.
Next month, the company is launching Nurishh, Bel's first 100% plant-based cheese brand. Nurishh, which will be sold globally after its initial debut in the United States, is the first new brand Bel has developed since its commitment last fall to add plant-based options of all of its other signature cheeses. While there are currently plant-based and hybrid versions of Boursin and The Laughing Cow for sale, this launch represents a departure from that strategy.
"Nurishh really delivers on both taste and functionality — critical drivers for the category — and it can be difficult to get it right in the plant-based space," Florian Decaux, Bel's plant-based acceleration director, said. "...We strike the balance of a genuine cheesy taste, meltability, and also the comfort of being a plant-based product for plant-based gourmets."
Nurishh, which will come in six varieties of slices and shreds — cheddar style, mozzarella style and provolone style slices and cheddar style, mozzarella style and blended shreds — was born out of a collaboration between Bel Group and All in Foods, which it acquired last March, Decaux said. All in Foods has a brand in France called Nature & Moi, and Decaux said Bel worked with the new team to work on improving taste, performance and ingredients of All in Foods' French brand for this new launch. The shreds and slices format of Nurishh is different than Bel's other well-known brands in U.S. stores.
Decaux said the taste, melt performance and varieties of Nurishh will draw consumers. But the company also worked to minimize the ingredient list and increase the nutritional value. On average, each Nurishh product contains 10 ingredients — the number varies slightly depending on cheese variety and form. The main ingredient for all of the varieties is coconut oil, and there are no artificial colors or flavors. The cheeses are also a good source of calcium and vitamin B12, Decaux said.
Bill Graham, CEO of Bel Brands USA, said Nurishh is helping the company get closer to its longer term goal of adding a diverse array of plant-based options. This is important, he said, because it adds more consumer choice in general — flexitarians also seek out plant-based options in cheese. It shows that Bel really wants to be at the forefront of the plant-based cheese movement, Graham said.
Nurishh has performed well in all consumer tests the company has conducted, Graham said. Consumers consistently give the company's offerings high marks for taste, nutrition and naturalness — all areas where plant-based cheese has struggled as a segment.
No other company that started out with dairy cheese has launched its own plant-based brand — let alone done it simultaneously as it has developed a slate of plant-based offerings for its other brands. Graham hinted that this is the start for more big plant-based launches from Bel.
"We're also looking at other segments of plant-based beyond just in cheese, but it's going to start within the cheese wheelhouse," Graham said. "We're going to start in slices and shreds, and then we're going to look to get into other segments to the extent that we believe we can do it better and differently."
Neither Graham nor Decaux would say exactly where Bel may go next, but they were confident that Nurishh is just the beginning.
"Looking ahead at Bel's dairy offering, we will continue to expand, and we have a lot of big ambition," Decaux said. "Our future innovation will certainly benefit from this new plant-based initiative, and we will capitalize on all the progress that we have already made."