Born in 2019 from a need for a pure product that was completely bereft of any chemicals or preservatives, Katharos Foods is the brainchild of Jasmine Bharucha, founder, of Katharos Foods. Katharos means ‘Pure’ in Greek, and it truly represents her idea for creating vegan /plant-based cheese that is free of chemicals, preservatives, oil, and other additives. Talking about the products, she said, “All our cheese assortments are free of, soya, dairy, and gluten. We have a variety of cheese types that are not only rich in nutrition and meet the protein requirements in our bodies but also taste delicious and fill the gap for non-dairy quality products.”
When asked what drove her to come up with the idea to develop plant-based cheese, she said, “As I was transitioning to veganism, I noticed a scarcity of high-quality, low-cost vegan cheese in the market. This was the driving force behind Katharos, a brand that provides plant-based dairy replacements to customers seeking a healthy vegan diet. All our products are healthy, all-natural, and environmentally friendly. We aim to provide consumers with the best-in-class affordable dairy alternatives that contain no preservatives, chemicals, added sugar, or other additives.”
A healthy way to satisfy your cheese cravings
Katharos Foods offers a wide variety of cheese options for consumers, some of which include vegan cheese blocks, vegan pizza cheese sauce, vegan soft cheese spread, vegan feta cheese, and vegan energy balls. Talking about their USP, Bharucha said, “My original concept for Katharos Foods was that all our cheese products should be vegan and free from animal products. All our products have zero cholesterol and no trans-fat. Some plant-based cheese types are devoid of emulsifiers, stabilizers, preservatives, and chemicals and contain negligible saturated fats. Moreover, vegan cheese is an excellent alternative for lactose-intolerant individuals who miss cheese and its texture.”
She added that since plant-based cheese does not contain any lactose or casein, it reduces the chances of intestinal permeability. “I feel that while plant-based cheese is rich in flavor and texture, it also has nutritional benefits. For instance, several vegan cheese assortments in the market today are high in protein and make a fantastic addition to a balanced diet,” said Bharucha.
According to her, Katharos Foods’ non-dairy cheeses are all-natural. They are made from nuts like almonds, watermelon seeds, or cashews, which are a healthy and cruelty-free option. Talking about their nutritional value, she proudly said, “All our products are free from oil, soya, sugar, gluten, preservatives, chemicals, stabilizers, gum, emulsifiers, and trans-fats. The nutritional value is much better than any dairy cheese. The Herbed Feta Cheese has 13.9% protein and can fulfill about half your daily calcium requirements.”
Consumer response to the vegan cheese market
India has a very big market for food lovers containing diverse flavors. Bharucha believes that cheese has risen to the top of the food chain, largely due to its delectable flavor and gooey texture in pizzas, pasta, salads, burgers, and sandwiches. However, consumer preferences for the type of cheese are gradually shifting. Commenting on the shifting healthy diet trends post the pandemic, she said, “By 2030, the global market for plant-based food is expected to witness five-fold growth. In addition to plant-based meat, the alternative dairy industry has seen significant growth. Given the wide-scale popularity of nutrition-rich alternatives to dairy milk and cheese, the plant-based dairy industry has the potential to double in the next few years.”
Gradually, an increased number of meat eaters are opting to incorporate more plant-based meals into their diets. “Plant-based dairy in India is expected to grow at a CAGR of 20.7 % to reach $63.9 million by 2024, with an estimated value of $21 million compared to the animal-derived dairy industry's value of $140 billion,” remarked Bharucha.
Expansion and R&D
The company has its manufacturing facility in Mumbai and has a dedicated R&D team that creates new products and works on improving existing ones. Katharos Foods is focused on directing all its efforts into making vegan cheese as of now. Bharucha explained the reason behind this, “We still have a lot of different cheeses we can make. We will be launching 2 new products in the next 2 months and look forward to expanding our portfolio of vegan products and making these products more accessible to PAN India. This growth plan will be supplemented with our research to improve the taste and texture of the products.”
Challenges and barriers in the plant-based industry
With the rise in consumers’ interest in the new domain, numerous plant-based companies have sprung up within a short span of time to help interested consumers shift to a clean diet. Bharucha talked about the challenges faced by the manufacturers, “For many consumers, the sensory experience of plant-based food is a barrier to adoption, especially if they expect it to be similar to animal-based products. However, plant-based manufacturers have come a long way in creating products with delectable textures and flavors.” Additionally, plant-based foods are prone to spoilage, sometimes more so than their meat and dairy counterparts. As a result, more than half of the consumers have concerns about the safety of plant-based dairy alternatives. Around 49% have the same concerns about meat alternatives, as per reports.
Bharucha remarked, “Plant-based food consumers also tend to support clean-label ingredients, sustainability, and minimizing food waste. And they have a preference for food that’s convenient and easy to prepare. All these considerations complicate the already challenging task of improving the safety of plant-based products. “
Overcoming challenges is an integral part of building a brand. Katharos Food is working relentlessly to develop products that offer a variety of plant-based cheese options to its consumers. Sharing the company’s future plans, Bharucha said, “Going forward, we intend to concentrate on growing our portfolio. Also, we envision capturing a huge share of the entire cheese market in India, including dairy, as well as expanding our reach in vegan hubs across the country, especially Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, and Delhi.”