1. How did you get into making non-dairy cheese? Curiosity is what led me to make my first non-dairy cheese. It was a brie, and it took me 2 weeks to make. I shared it with omni friends, and the brie was devoured in moments. I thought, “wow! I’ve never had a vegan cheese that comes this close to dairy cheese flavors and texture”! Then the obsession started! (Full disclosure I dedicated the bulk of my career to developing products for So
Delicious Dairy Free. Catalyst Creamery was born a few years after I left SDDF due to a layoff)
2. What are you most proud of? Taking an idea, doing the research and development, and bringing an allergen friendly vegan cheese option to the market. But I wanted more than a soy free nut free offering. I wanted a cheese that could give the same versatility we see in dairy cheeses. I wanted something that would melt and work in recipes as well as stand up on a cheese board as a snack. I also wanted to explore some fun flavors I hadn’t seen in the vegan supermarket offerings like our horseradish or Ghost Pepper & Fried Onion.
3. What challenges have you overcome so far? OMG all the challenges of creating a packaged food product without the blueprint from those that have done it! Plant based cheese really is a pioneering food category! We are all figuring this out as we grow. A big hurdle for Catalyst has been figuring out how to extend the shelf life and keep the quality at 100%.
Vegan cheese is not an easy product to produce, and the learning curve is so steep. You must be willing to take a risk and put your product, brand and beliefs out there to run a vegan cheese company.
Our commitment was tested September 28th, 2022 when Hurricane Ian made land fall in our small Florida town. Our roof came off and we were forced to shut down all production of Catalyst cheeses. During the 3 months it took to rebuild our commercial kitchen a lot of thought went into what we wanted out of Catalyst. Honestly there were some days we doubted whether or not we should continue. Does the world really need vegan cheese? In the end I missed making cheese and my retail buds were ready to place orders. Did I mention how awesome our retail partners are? Special thanks to Black Radish Grocer and Besties Vegan Paradise who helped us raise funds during our shutdown and are just really awesome folks!
4. How do you see the future of this new food category? I’m excited by how much this category is growing. We now have small batch artisan cheese companies popping up all over North America. We all have our own spin on regional flavors, and it’s reflected in the offerings. It’s so inspiring to be in such a creative category with so many talented cheesemakers. I think it’s cool to have a local vegan cheesemaker and hope to see it grow. How fun would it be to travel across north America visiting regional cheesemakers or cheese shops that are 100% vegan.
Giving up cheese is a barrier to go fully Vegan. We wanted an allergen friendly option in nostalgic snacking cheese flavors. Catalyst created a versatile cheese that melts in a recipe and holds up on a cheeseboard or sliced on crackers