We’re launching Stockeld Chunk, our first cheese, at Stockeld Dreamery following 2.5 years of research and development. I’ve done a lot in my career, but never before launched a cheese: Welcome behind the scenes. (We needed a press release but they are about the most boring thing in the world, so I decided to write this instead).
I’ve known Sorosh Tavakoli since 2018. After selling his previous venture, he wanted to build a new startup which would contribute to solving the climate crisis, and where impact was built into the business model.
Sorosh had always loved cheese. But he didn’t love the negative impacts of cheese production, in terms of e.g. environment and animal welfare. He realized that the dairy industry alone accounts for 4% of total global greenhouse gas emissions, and that there weren’t any great alternatives to dairy-based cheese. Eventually, Sorosh refused to accept status quo — he decided to develop cheese without dairy.
Meanwhile, food scientist Anja Leissner, with a background in the dairy industry and frustrated by the lack of product innovation, had started to research plant proteins to build a new type of cheese. In 2018, Anja and Sorosh serendipitously met, and not long after, they established Stockeld Dreamery.
I was an advisor and early investor from the start, and recently I elected to go all-in, as Head of Strategy and Special Projects for Stockeld Dreamery. By then, the company had already grown to a team of 14 (most of them scientists), and received backing from some of the leading investors in the world, such as e.g. Northzone, Inventure, Astanor, and Creandum.
Why develop plant-based cheese?
If you’ve ever had the misfortune of eating a plant-based cheese, you already know the answer. Most products in this category taste bad, are poor in nutrition, and are expensive. Not surprisingly, these products haven’t managed to capture more than a fraction of the cheese market (which is worth over €85B on a global basis — people love cheese!).
The last couple of years, Stockeld Dreamery has been busy doing R&D to develop Stockeld Chunk, creating over 1,000 iterations. We’ve done consumer testing, and have let over 40 chefs try the cheese and develop exciting dishes with it. We’ve received wildly different types of feedback along the way. People have been impressed by what we set out to do, but they’ve also been brutally honest and said that there’s room for improvement. But something shifted 2 months ago: The body language of those trying the cheese changed, we started to hear ‘wow’, and chefs leaned in, asking if they could put Stockeld Chunk on their menus. We knew we had nailed it.
Stockeld Chunk is made of fermented peas and fava beans, and can be used as a feta cheese in e.g. salads, as crumbled pieces in a hot dish, or as topping on a bowl or a soup. It tastes great and has similar nutritional value as a feta cheese (e.g. 13% protein, 1.5% carbs, and 20% fat). Stockeld Chunk isn’t however trying to make a fake version of something that already exists. It can be used as a feta cheese, but it’s staying true to the ingredients and its own unique cheese experience. We think we’re launching a new category of cheese — fermented, and high in protein.
So how do you launch a cheese?
You do workshops with your brand agency. You check, and double check, with all your chef friends who’ll give you input and feedback. You build a website, design the packaging, develop product sheets, pop up on social media (right now on Instagram, Medium, LinkedIn, and Facebook), and respond to questions from curious journalists from all over the world. You send cheese samples to a limited circle of people. You visit restaurants and meet purchase managers. You make a million small decisions.
It all sounds easy, but it’s super hard. Should we mention that the product is suitable for vegans, knowing that the v-word can scare off other customers? What can we tell about the product, without making life hard for the patent applications we haven’t yet filed? What taste profile of the product should we launch with? Can we even call it cheese, as it doesn’t contain milk?
And where should people be able to buy the cheese? Ideally we want to be everywhere on Day 1. We produce in Hultsfred (in southern Sweden) and the production capacity is limited in the start. So we’ll begin to sell the cheese at a few selected really great food places in Stockholm, from May 6, 2021 — Pom & Flora, BAK Bakery and the cheesemonger Wijnjas Grosshandel (at the first two places both as a dish as well as in a 150g package). And then we’ll increasingly become more widely available in restaurants, and also supermarkets, in Sweden — and then the world.
You take a deep breath…
…and let go of control. After May 6, we’re no longer in full control. Chefs, customers, and journalists will try, eat, enjoy, and have opinions about, Stockeld Chunk. Things can, and will, go wrong. It’s nervewrecking.
But I’m at peace. We know that the product is great, and we’ll continue to make it even better. And I have some incredibly talented colleagues (and we’ll soon have one of the largest R&D teams for plant-based cheese in the world).
More than anything, this is a solid first step towards our first vision: To create a cheese that is superior in taste and nutrition, constantly striving to use our planet’s resources wisely, accessible to all yet one of the top preferred cheeses by chefs and restaurants. Simply put, the world’s most ambitious cheese.
I encourage you to try this completely new cheese experience, enjoy it, and give us feedback. Because the world’s most ambitious cheese will never be finished — it will only get better. Hope you’ll join us on this journey.
For more pictures, please click here.