- Good Planet Foods, a manufacturer of meltable plant-based cheeses, raised $12 million in a Series A funding round. The investment was led by Cleveland Avenue.
- Good Planet Foods' non-GMO, vegan, kosher and halal certified products are available at major retailers such as Walmart, Costco, Wegmans and Safeway.
- David Israel, founder and CEO of Good Planet Foods, said in a statement that the company would use the additional funding on product development, sales and marketing.
As the popularity of plant-based products grows, meat and dairy are among the areas targeted by big food giants like Danone, Nestlé, Kellogg and Conagra Brands. Within dairy, smaller companies have increasingly focused their work on creating plant-based cheeses that consumers can use in everything from a topping on their faux burger to sandwiches and pizza.
Good Planet has made its way into many mainstream retailers including Walmart and Safeway. Its cheese alternative also is added to the Impossible Burger sold at restaurant chain White Castle. But the category is very crowded.
In February, Tofurky officially launched Moocho as a spinoff brand making dairy-free products such as Moocho's Cheddar and Mozzarella. The Bel Group, the maker of Babybel, announced plans last fall to develop hybrid items integrating dairy and plant-based raw materials. Other companies in the space include Daiya Foods, Miyoko's Creamery and Follow Your Heart.
According to Nielsen data collected by the Good Food Institute, plant-based cheese sales were worth $133.2 million between August 2017 and August 2018 — up 41% from the year before. This growth rate was faster than that of plant-based meat, which the data found to be 23% during that same time.
Plant-based offerings have been among the fastest growing food categories during the coronavirus outbreak. Plant-based cheese sales were up 95% compared to 2019 in mid-March, according to SPINS statistics analyzed by the Plant Based Foods Association. Sales in this category have remained on an upward trend, with a growth rate of 54% in the four weeks after the consumer buying peak.
With several companies competing in the space, the pressure is on to develop a product with the right mix of taste, appearance and behavior, such as its melting capabilities, as traditional dairy products in order to stand out. Top plant-based cheese producers have said perfecting this type of product is both exceedingly difficult — and the secret to their success.
Good Planet is a relatively new entrant into the space, launching in foodservice in late 2018 and retail early the next year. As plant-based cheeses become closer to their traditional counterparts, companies will have to work even harder to make the perfect item.
Plant-based meat manufacturers such as Beyond Meat are regularly updating and improving their product. The same no doubt is happening in cheese. Companies like Good Planet can't let up as competition intensifies. Israel told Food Navigator his product is made in Greece with a similar process used to make real cheese for pizzas.
For now, big food companies in the plant-based meat space have largely ignored doing the same in cheese. As the plant-based market grows, and opportunities to mix-and-match their offerings rises — such as cheese with a burger or cheese in a lasagna with faux beef — it's only a matter of time before they enter the segment, too.
As Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger have shown, being an early market leader with a product that mirrors the real animal-based alternative can pay big dividends as competition intensifies. While Good Planet is only a few years old, it's already made significant inroads, and the latest cash infusion could help it maintain its momentum in a rapidly changing sector.