Bute-based vegan cheese maker hungry for growth after export success

A vegan cheese maker based on the Isle of Bute is targeting further export success after market growth of 75 per cent amid booming demand for plant-based food products.

Bute Island Foods has been making its dairy-free “Sheese” since 1988 after renovating a small derelict stone building on the island which had previously been part of a creamery.

The demand for Sheese saw it becoming available in many other countries, starting with Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands.

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With a new state-of-the-art cheesemaking facility run by the food business, which changed ownership in 2003, Sheese is now exporting to key markets in North America, Oceania and Asia.

The Sheese brand has experienced huge demand across the globe.

Debbie Dawson, managing director of Bute Island Foods, acquired the company in 2003 after being unable to eat dairy products due to a serious illness as a child.

She said: “As more and more consumers look to reduce their dairy intake for health or environmental reasons and increase plants into their diets, the popularity of dairy free cheese has been growing apace – and not just in the UK but across the globe. In the US, for example, sales of dairy free cheese are growing faster even than dairy free milk.

“As a business that produces only dairy free cheese and dairy free ice cream here on the Isle of Bute, this has presented us with a huge opportunity and one we have been able to seize upon.

“As well as supplying the UK domestic market, we now export our dairy free cheeses to North America, Canada, Europe, Russia, Australia and New Zealand and the Middle East, competing against big multi-national companies.”

Sheese has the highest market growth among plant-based cheese brands, at 73.5 per cent.

The UK plant-based cheese market is now worth more than £42 million and is growing at more than 45 per cent a year. In the US, the market is estimated to be worth in excess of £160m.

Bute Island Foods has seen domestic sales surge over the last year as record numbers of people switch to a vegan diet.

Dawson added: “We’re proud to be driving worldwide sales of dairy free cheese and helping more consumers seek a more sustainable way of life.”

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