Violife became part of the Upfield portfolio following the acquisition of Arivia in 2020, creating the world’s largest plant-based consumer food company. Violife cheeses are available in more than 50 countries and are the most widely available in the UK, USA and mainland Europe.
We spoke with Managing Director Andy Reichgut, who is responsible for business development in the retail and restaurant channels in the United States. Reichgut is a CPG industry leader, joining Violife from Veggies Made Great®, bringing over twenty years of brand management experience from Mars, Reckitt Benckiser and Pinnacle Foods.
What is the origin of the Violife story and how has the brand evolved over the years?
Violife was created as a dairy-free alternative to cheese by three friends in Greece who wanted to be able to eat cheese throughout the 100 days of fasting in the Greek Orthodox calendar. Since its inception over 30 years ago, Violife has worked to develop recipes so that consumers do not have to compromise on taste and performance.
Violife products are developed to capture the taste of dairy cheese, but without the dairy so they can be enjoyed by everyone – vegans, vegetarians, foodies and meat eaters. We truly believe that we have products that, once consumers try them, change their whole perception of the plant-based cheese category!
What are your best projections for the plant-based food category in the United States over the next year?
We expect an increase in the consumption of plant-based foods and an increase in the variety of plant-based products over the next year to meet consumer demand. These projections come from data we saw from the Plant Based Food Association (PBFA), which shares that consumer demand for plant-based foods continues to grow by double digits.
“over 80% of all Americans have tried plant-based foods and 78% are regular shoppers”
In 2020, 57% of US households have purchased plant-based foods, over 80% of all Americans have tried plant-based foods, and 78% are regular shoppers. At Violife, we continue to expand our product offerings in the United States and abroad to appeal to a more diverse consumer audience.
What trends have you seen for vegan cheese over the past year? Where do you think the vegan cheese category is headed? What factors do you think are driving these trends?
We see two trends happening in the vegan cheese category that are consumer-driven and also directly related to our plant-based category projections above. First, there are many more varieties of flavors and formats and improvements in texture and taste.
“Consumers expect to find plant-based cheese where they buy dairy cheese – in the dairy section!”
The second trend we see is that consumers expect to find plant-based cheese where they buy dairy cheese – in the dairy section! PBFA recently published an article with data that shows sales of plant-based cheese increased when moved to the dairy section of the US market.
Can you share more details on the recent Plant Based Food Association study regarding Albertsons Volife in the US market?
As noted in the plant-based cheese trends question above, plant-based cheese is starting to find its way into the dairy aisle. At Violife, we have always believed that plant-based cheese should be located in the same area where consumers buy dairy cheese.
“there was an increase in unit and dollar sales at US retailers when plant-based cheese was placed alongside dairy cheese”
The Plant Based Food Association’s recent study with Albertson’s showed that there was an increase in unit and dollar sales at U.S. retailers when plant-based cheese was placed alongside dairy cheese – when retailers and consumers benefit from a simple change like this, we all win!
How has the pandemic impacted consumer interest in plant-based cheeses?
Throughout the pandemic, we have seen more and more people adopt a plant-based diet and lifestyle driven by health, dietary and environmental concerns (read more here ). We believe that consumers will continue to be sensitive to healthier eating habits and will continue to choose plant-based foods because they are more sustainable than dairy alternatives and the consumer does not have to compromise on taste.
Based on detailed Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) (which cover the entire product life cycle, including production and transportation) conducted on 6 Violife products sold in the United States compared to dairy cheese, this research shows that Violife products have less than half the climate impacts and take up two-thirds less land compared to the same amount of dairy cheese* (full summary of results can be read here).
“a single change in eating habits can make a big difference”
In other words, a single change in eating habits can make a big difference. By changing your cheese to plant-based cheese, a consumer can have a lighter footprint on our planet. We believe this concern will continue to be at the forefront of consumer concerns as plant-based food becomes increasingly accessible and important to consumers’ dietary, ethical and lifestyle choices.
How does Violife compare to competing products?
What makes our products unique are our simple ingredients and our process. Our recipes have been perfected for over 20 years to give Violife the flavor and mouthfeel of a dairy cheese. Unlike other plant-based cheeses, Violife products are nut- and soy-free and made with simple ingredients like coconut oil and gluten-free starches. We continue to develop new flavors and formats in the field of plant-based cheeses and to create products that can be enjoyed by everyone.
What is Violife’s growth strategy in the US for the remainder of 2022?
We recently launched Violife Plant Butter in the US, which is one of our first steps in expanding into other herbal offerings. We continue to increase our distribution to make Violife products more accessible to consumers seeking change.
In addition to plant-based butter, we have some exciting innovations coming to the US market that we’ll be announcing later this year, including three new products coming in July that we’re excited to talk about!
*Based on Quantis’ 2022 life cycle assessment of 6 Violife vegan cheese products compared to dairy cheese in the United States. For more information see: https://violifefoods.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/Upfield_Violife_TechnicalSummary_Quantis_April2022.pdf