- Parmela Creamery received $1.25 million to fuel growth, strengthen brand awareness and support new innovation in a funding round led by 25Madison, with participation from Gather Ventures and Luke Abbott, CEO of VDriven Consulting.
- The manufacturer of non-GMO cultured vegan cheeses, spreads, dips, sauces and ravioli made from cashew milk said in a release it plans to use the investment to become "the brand most known for making plant-based dairy the world's first option."
- The company, which launched in 2014, has products in Publix, Whole Foods, Wegman's and other large retailers. Parmela Creamery said the traditional culturing and aging process it uses allows cheeses to develop flavors appealing to vegetarians, flexitarians, plant-based consumers and anyone who likes healthier options.
The plant-based food market has seen explosive growth during the past few years as consumers cut back on cholesterol, try to avoid lactose and opt for healthier dietary habits. Some are concerned about animal welfare, and others worry about sustainability and the effect of animal agriculture on the environment. Regardless of the reason, more people are shifting to flexitarian, vegetarian or vegan diets and Parmela Creamery is taking advantage of that consumer demand.
Parmela raised this money in order to grow brand awareness and continue innovating in the rapidly expanding marketplace. The Good Food Institute reported U.S. retail sales of plant-based foods climbed 17% to exceed $3.7 billion in the past year. Non-dairy milks and plant-based cheeses are showing particular strength. According to figures from Nielsen and the Plant Based Foods Association, non-dairy milk sales jumped 9% to $1.6 billion in the 52 weeks ending in June of last year, while plant-based cheeses grew by 43%.
Parmela has a number of competitors in the plant-based cheese sector, including Miyoko's Kitchen, Kite Hill, Treeline Treenut Cheese, Punk Rawk Labs, Daiya, Dr. Cow Tree Nut Cheese, Vtopian Artisan Cheeses and Heido Ho! Organics. While some are regional brands focused on products such as dairy-free cream cheese or alternative goat cheese, each has a following and many are also looking to grow their reach.
Parmela could benefit from the expertise of its investors as it looks to scale up in the crowded market. 25Madison is a startup innovation hub that has backed food companies like the Great American Turkey Co. and BOU cube-based products. And Gather Ventures provides capital and entrepreneurial experience to companies that are driving the shift from animal to plant-based food consumption.
Additionally, Parmela could have an advantage since it might not have to worry about its labeling. All of its products have "nutcheese" prominently displayed on the packaging. The National Milk Producers Federation petitioned the FDA earlier this year asking the agency not to allow non-dairy products to use terms such as milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream and butter that "are nutritionally inferior to such reference standardized dairy foods." The FDA is going through more than 13,000 public comments on regulating labels for plant-based dairy alternatives, and no decisions have been made.
Meanwhile, it appears to be full steam ahead for plant-based dairy alternatives, and plenty of consumers seem to be going along for the ride. A Variant Market Research report cited by One Green Planet projected the global plant-based cheese market will grow even faster in the next few years and reach $3.9 billion by 2024. If Parmela is able to parlay this investment into big brand growth, then it might reach its lofty goal of leading the charge for plant-based cheese.