Violife became part of the Upfield portfolio following the acquisition of Arivia in 2020, creating the largest plant-based consumer food products company in the world. Violife cheeses are available in more than 50 countries and are most widely available in the UK, US, and mainland Europe.
We spoke with General Manager Andy Reichgut, who is responsible for building business in US retail and food service channels. Reichgut is a leader in the CPG industry 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 Violife’s 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 under the Greek Orthodox calendar. Since its founding over 30 years ago, Violife has worked to develop recipes so that consumers don’t have to compromise on taste and performance.
Violife products are developed to capture the taste of the dairy cheese, but without the dairy so they can be enjoyed by everyone – vegans, vegetarians, plant-forward foodies, and meat-eaters alike. We really believe that we have products that once consumers try them, change their whole perception of the plant-based cheese category!
What are your top projections for the plant-based food category in the US over the next year?
We expect to see an increase in plant-based food consumption and an increase in plant-based product variety over the next year to meet consumer demand. These projections come from the data we’ve seen from the Plant Based Food Association (PBFA), which shares that consumer demand for plant-based foods is continuing to grow in double digits.
“over 80% of all Americans have tried plant-based foods, and 78% are repeat buyers”
In 2020, 57% of US households purchased plant-based foods, over 80% of all Americans have tried plant-based foods, and 78% are repeat buyers. At Violife, we continue to expand our product offerings in the US and abroad to appeal to a more diverse consumer audience.
What trends have you seen for vegan cheeses during the past year? Where do you think the vegan cheese category is heading? What factors do you think are driving these trends?
We see two trends happening in the vegan cheese category that are being driven by consumers and also tie directly into our plant-based category projections above. First, there are a lot more flavors and format varieties and improvements in texture and taste.
“consumers expect to find plant-based cheese where they shop for dairy cheese – in the dairy section!”
The second trend we’re seeing is that consumers expect to find plant-based cheese where they shop for dairy cheese – in the dairy section! PBFA recently published an article that features data which shows that sales of plant-based cheese have increased when it is moved to the dairy section within the U.S. market.
Can you share more details on the recent Plant Based Food Association Study regarding Volife in Albertsons in the US market?
As shared in the above question related to plant-based cheese trends, plant-based cheese is beginning to find its place in the dairy aisle. At Violife, we have always felt that plant-based cheese should be located in the same area where consumers shop for dairy cheese.
“there was an increase in units and dollars sales in 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 units and dollars sales in US retailers when plant-based cheese was placed alongside dairy cheese – when the retailers and consumers benefit from a simple change like this, we all win!
How did the pandemic impact consumer interest in plant-based cheeses?
Throughout the pandemic, we saw more and more people moving to a plant-based diet and lifestyle motivated by health, diet, and environmental concerns (read more here). We believe that consumers will continue to be sensitive to healthier eating patterns and continue to choose plant-based foods because they are more sustainable than dairy alternatives and the consumer doesn’t have to compromise on taste.
Based on detailed life cycle assessments (LCA) (which covers the full life cycle of the product including production and transportation) conducted on 6 Violife products sold in the U.S. as compared to dairy cheese, this research shows that the Violife products have less than half the climate impacts and occupy two thirds less land when compared to the same amount of dairy cheese* (Full summary of the findings can be read here).
“one change in eating habits can make a big difference”
In other words, one 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 that this concern will continue to be front of mind for consumers with plant-based eating becoming more and more accessible and important for consumers’ dietary, ethical and lifestyle choices.
How does Violife compare to rival products?
What makes our products unique is our simple ingredients and our process. Our recipes have been perfected for over 20 years to give Violife the flavor and mouthfeel of dairy cheese. Unlike other plant-based cheeses, Violife products are nut-free and soy-free and made with simple ingredients like coconut oil and gluten-free starches. We are continuing to develop flavors and formats that are first-of-their-kind in the plant-based cheese space and to create products that can be enjoyed by everyone.
What is Violife’s growth strategy in the US for the rest of 2022?
We recently launched Violife Plant Butter in the US, which is one of our first steps to expanding into other plant-based offerings. We are continuing to increase our distribution to make Violife products more accessible to consumers who are looking for a change.
In addition to the Plant Butter, we have some exciting innovations coming to the US market that we will be announcing later this year, including three new products hitting shelves in July that we are excited to talk about!
*Based on life cycle assessment in 2022 by Quantis of 6 Violife vegan cheese products compared to dairy cheese in the US. For info see: https://violifefoods.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/Upfield_Violife_TechnicalSummary_Quantis_April2022.pdf