Philadelphia –– the brand credited with inventing modern cream cheese –– is finally releasing a dairy-free vegan cream cheese after 150 years in business. The company conducted a study that found less than half of shoppers who buy plant-based spreads repurchase a certain brand and saw a massive opportunity to win over loyalty and market share. Now, the brand has developed its first-ever vegan cream cheese that is set to roll out in the Southeastern United States before a national launch by the summer of 2023.
Philadelphia currently accounts for 69 percent of the entire cream cheese sector in the U.S., but until now, the beloved brand lacked any vegan-friendly products. As its parent company Kraft Heinz accelerates its plant-based initiatives, Philadelphia will cater to the growing population of vegan consumers.
“Philadelphia Plant-Based spread not only provides a solution that mirrors the taste and texture of our iconic Philadelphia brand, but it also reinforces Kraft Heinz’s bet to bring plant-based offerings to the masses,” Robert Scott, President of Research & Development at The Kraft Heinz Company, said in a statement.
Shoppers can currently find plant-based original cream cheese at select retailers. The brand also teased that it will debut two new flavors with the product’s national commercial launch.
“We have seen interest in plant-based food continue to grow … and we really wanted to address that as a brand,” Philadelphia’s Senior Brand Manager Keenan White said to VegNews. “Seeing how the current [non-dairy] category was growing so rapidly and seeing what offerings were on the market were great informers for us as we thought about our own formula and about getting into plant-based ourselves as the brand that invented cream cheese 150 years ago.”
What is Philadelphia’s Vegan Cream Cheese Made Of?
Following two years of development, Philadelphia culinary teams developed the Philadephia Plant-Based spread that uses coconut oil, potato starch, and faba bean protein to replicate the creamy texture and protein content of its popular cream cheese products.
Philadelphia’s 2021 IRI and Mintel Data study revealed that the consumers felt unenthusiastic about the market’s current plant-based spreads. Using this as an opportunity, its culinary team sought out ingredients that would replicate the smooth, creamy texture that traditional Philadelphia products are famous for. Now, its vegan, lactose-free, and gluten-free spread will give customers looking for healthy and sustainable alternatives to their bagel topping, especially since nearly half of young Americans describe themselves as flexitarians.
“The influx of flexitarian consumers has driven growth within the plant-based market, which is now more than 20 times the size of the vegan population,” Scott said. “As the brand that has set the cream cheese standard for 150 years, we realized the current options weren’t meeting consumer expectations and there was no trusted leader.”
Philadelphia’s decision to develop a plant-based alternative also helps The Kraft Heinz Company’s greater mission to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impact. Current estimates predict a plant-based diet can reduce food-related emissions by 61 percent.
“We anticipate this product will help us achieve both our goals of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 (halving them by 2030) and increasing our plant-based offerings across Kraft Heinz brands to support healthy, sustainable living and accessibility amongst consumers,” White continued.
Kraft Heinz Bets on Vegan Products
The Philadelphia vegan cream cheese is the next step of Kraft Heinz’s greater plant-based development. About 55 percent of consumers now shop with sustainability at the top of their minds, so the company recently teamed up with TheNotCompany to help give its portfolio a vegan makeover, starting with Kraft’s classic Singles.
The company launched the NotCheese American Style Plant-Based Slices at 30 Giant supermarkets in Cleveland, Ohio before national expansion in 2023. Kraft Heinz used NotCo’s proprietary artificial intelligence platform –– affectionately named Guiseppe –– to determine the best plant-based ingredients to make vegan Singles. Now, the two companies will continue their work together under a joint partnership.
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