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The idea behind Honestly Tasty is to redefine cheese for vegans and non-vegans alike. With options like Blue, Bree, Chilli Ched Spread and Shamembert, vegans and the curious won’t have a shortage of options to figure out.

In this interview for DeliveryRank we talked with Ailis Anderson, responsible for Marketing, Brand and Comms, to know more about the foundation of Honestly Tasty, the products they offer and challenges they had to overcome.

When did you have the idea for Honestly Tasty and how your personal experiences impacted what you wanted to deliver for your customers?

If you’ve tried plant-based cheese, then you know there’s a problem! We started Honestly Tasty in 2018 following a series of events… that January, Mike (our founder, who leads alongside his sister Beth, co-founder!) decided to use #Veganuary to kickstart his journey and change his ways (crazy to think that was only 5 years ago!!). Not long after, he was on holiday with some pals… in France. Not that it hadn’t been apparent in the UK, but in France he was really confronted by how terrible the vegan options were… and there was nothing truly delicious replacing dairy cheese.

Following an investigative trip to Berlin, he set up camp at Granny Joyce’s… turning a vacant room into a mini manufacturing kitchen! Kitted out with basic tools, he set to work. Stirred, fermented, matured…. And waited. After many attempts and weird smells coming from the fridge he shared with a flatmate, our Blue cheese was born. Made using a combination of new technology and traditional cheese-making techniques, it went down a storm!

Mike quit his job (he’d been working in the city and fitting cheese trials around his banking role) and Beth joined the company. And the journey to creating honestly tasty plant-based cheeses continued from there.

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome since creating the concept and starting offering the products?

Gosh - there have been highs and lows for sure and challenges crop up along the way but we've built a community, both of trusted stockists and partners that enable our growth and also of other vegan cheese makers - where possible, sharing knowledge that we hope means the sector will grow and gain popularity. That community first and foremost though, is made up of our incredible customers!

We continually want to ensure that we’re making plant-based products that aren’t just “the best vegan option” but are delicious within their own right. We don’t want to make “great vegan cheese” because we want it to be “just great cheese” that happens to be made without dairy… so we’d say more recently our challenges have been around working to replace casein in order to make truly authentic alternatives. Caseins are milk proteins and play an integral part in cheese making - responsible for how well and how quickly the milk clots and forms a curd... they dictate the texture and, in layman’s terms - the cheesiness!

Your blue cheese without a question gets anyone's attention when checking out your website. Can you explain to our audience the difference to “regular” blue cheese?

It’s an award-winner for a reason! Matured over several weeks with real penicillum roqueforti (akin to the dairy version) it’s got a distinctive blue bite. The difference, namely, is the protein used. Beyond that, we think they’re a pretty close match!

Can you present to us other products that you created?

Our core collection currently comprises three bestsellers; a vegan brie, alternative to camembert (Shamembert) and our Blue. They’re the most widely available, stocked around the UK by independent sellers alongside Ocado, Selfridges and Planet Organic. Online, they’re complemented by a Garlic & Herb (fast gaining popularity!) and two soft ched alternatives. We’re working on two additional firm cheeses at the moment that we’re giddy with excitement to share details of soon…

Since you use only natural and fresh products without some of the tricks (chemicals) that food companies use, it must be hard to maintain the quality of the products through shipping and keeping in stocks. How do you deliver a great product in that scenario?

Extending the shelf life of our products has been a real journey for us, and not without its challenges - especially because we don’t use any “nasties'' but through various trials, and tweaks along the way, we’ve recently managed to extend it from 8 - 12 days to 1 month. And as for shipping, we rely on couriers for the last leg but ensure orders are sent out in eco-friendly chilled packaging via a fast delivery service! Again - it’s any area we’ve run lots of tests in!

Did you notice a change in the acceptance of your products and/or an increase of people curious to try plant-based products since you started five years ago?

Oh for sure - and it’s really brilliant to see the sector thriving. Eating a plant-based diet doesn’t have to mean compromising on taste, or enjoyment. It doesn’t have to mean eating boring, bland food. And it doesn’t have to mean giving up cheese. Like some other amazing players in the plant-based industry (Oatly, This, Omni etc) we’re in business to create food for thought. Food that actually changes the way the world thinks about what we eat. About how plant-based really does make a difference, to animal welfare and protecting our planet. We do this by making cheese that is so damn tasty, there is no reason not to go plant-based. Changing perceptions and ultimately behavior.

What are Honestly Tasty’s plans for the next few years?

Our vision is to become the leading producer of high quality plant-based cheese.In just the next few months we’ve got some really big wins to share with everyone and we can’t wait to spread some cheesy cheer. New products, increased availability and better accessibility remain a focus…and we’re excited!

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