How Fermentation is Defining the Third Wave of Cheese and our New Cultured Cheddar Slices 🧀

Sorosh Tavakoli
The Stockeld Dreamery Blog
8 min readFeb 9, 2024

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You are one of the 100 million people eating dairy-free alternatives*, ordering a mouthwatering burger that arrives even better than you imagined… thick-cut smashed patty, secret sauce dripping over the caramelized onions, all on a lightly-toasted fluffy bun…it’s just missing one thing…

You skipped the “cheese” because the plastic-y options on the menu would have felt out of place on this masterful creation. The burger is good…it just could have been perfect if an amazingly melty and gooey cheese could marry all the flavors together…

The wait is over.

Today, that perfect melting cheese has arrived. Introducing Stockeld Dreamery MELT, our new Cultured Cheddar Slices. Our Dreamery is taking a big step forward towards our mission to help save the world by making better cheese after 4 years of development to bring fermentation to sliced cheese.

I’ve heard so many stories of disappointment related to plant based cheese over the years. The cheese that never melted, the cheese that ruined the entire pizza or burger, the plasticky texture that made a friend question if it was really food, or plastic. This is the consequence of the consistent over-promising and under-delivery of our industry giving consumers “Plant Fatigue”. If anything, this has fueled our product obsession over the last few years!

We know that without fixing the food system, we can’t solve the climate crisis…And we can’t fix the food system without drastically reducing animal based foods…And the most efficient way of achieving this is through the mouth — by making better tasting products!

The good news is that consumers are on board and demanding dairy-free products, but only when the experience meets or exceeds dairy, like in milk. While we see more options at coffee shops than ever, the demand for cheese hasn’t been there because it has felt too much like a sacrifice. We believe the next wave of fermented cheese products will change the game and push operator and consumer adoption and accelerate the shift towards sustainable cheese.

Fermentation is Creating the Third Wave of Plant Based Cheese

Plant based cheese has been through a few waves of products and technologies over the years all pushing the products into new and growing consumer groups.

An attempt to illustrate what the three waves of plant based cheese.

First Wave: Homemade nut cheeses for the believers
Before we had a widespread market for plant based foods, the only way to make something cheese-like was to make your own nut based cheese at home. These products provided a clean label and nutrition but lacked many parts of the cheese experience such as flavor and the creamy texture. This wave still lives on with hand-made craft nut cheeses.

Second Wave: Starch and fat cheeses at industrial scale pushed market forward
As the dairy-free category took off, big food companies entered with a new and super efficient approach to making cheese-like products: Mixing starch, fat and aromas at scale. This cheap method laid the ground for the next phase of growth, bringing plant based cheese to 1–2% of total cheese sales, but not further.

Third Wave: Naturally fermented, delicious and nutritious cheeses adoption deeper into flexitarians
While there are signs that the second wave of cheese is peaking**, there has been a third wave of new companies quietly working on the next generation of cheese. They are using the traditional dairy cheese making process of fermentation, a 10,000 year old natural food processing method where you use healthy bacteria to nibble on foods to transform flavor, texture and overall characteristics of your foods.

The fermentation of this wave is combined with industrial scale manufacturing and more functional, accessible and affordable ingredients than nuts, such as legumes or oats.

Fermentation helps bring more authentic flavor to cheese, it gives cleaner ingredient lists and increased health benefits. And we are still only scratching the surface on what is achievable.

At Stockeld, we have a strong conviction in the opportunities and potential of fermentation. Our Cultured Cream Cheese launched last year brought a premium experience to bagel shops with its natural tang, creamy texture and live cultures. Now served at more than 50 bagel shops.

We are excited to enter the $12Bn*** (and 3x larger than Cream Cheese) market of sliced cheese where only 1.2% is plant based. The macro opportunity to grow the category and increase our impact is just massive.

Introducing MELT, Cultured Cheddar Slices

There are so many aspects to this product that I’d love to highlight, but I’ll stick to the key points:

  • Made from fermented legumes — the main ingredient is our Fermented Legume Milk which is made using the protein from peas.
  • It (actually) MELTs at record speed — MELTs more than 2x faster than most of the non-dairy top sellers and faster than anything we’ve got our hands on.
  • Tastes great — Great cheddar flavor, often complemented as not tasting fake, and with a smooth natural finish.
  • Cold handling — for restaurant staff operating at high speed, the slices hold up well, separate nicely and don’t break. You can even flip them like a stack of cards.
  • Keeps the burger together — sticks to the patty and the bread to hold the burger together. A common challenge as you can see below.
  • No Allergens — no dairy, soy or nuts.
  • Decent nutrition — while cheese is not a health-food, most people expect protein in there and MELT has 2g per serving, at the very high end of our peers. Full details here.

Now served at some of the the best burger places in New York City

The product is currently only available with a few select restaurants as we are keen to stay close to early customers and collect feedback. In a few months the product will be made available via ACE Natural, Fischer Foods and Webstaurant. We are working to offer national distribution in the next 3–6m. Retail launch is planned towards the summer.

We are honored that some of the biggest authorities in the New York City burger scene have chosed to carry the product, even at this very early stage. Mike Puma’s first permanent burger shop, Gotham Burger Social Club, opened about a month ago and serves our Cultured Cheddar.

Email from Mike after having left samples: “Well we finally had a chance to try your cheese and let’s just say you got our attention. Really great and very impressed!”

We are also excited to work with Chef Andy and FIVE NAPKIN BURGER across their two locations topping burgers. Also, expect something very indulgent for the Valentines menu coming shortly!

Chef Andy shared some test dishes with us at our last visit — A Patty Melt with the Impossible Burger, caramlized onions and 4 slices of Cultured Cheddar.

All plant based burgers at the Bronx Brewery / Bastard Burgers are served with the Stockeld Cultured Cheddar and they just added a Grilled Cheese Sandwich, dairy-free of course, to their permanent menu.

Stockeld Cheddar is available for any burger at Bronx Brewery / Bastard Burgers in the East Village.

Finally I want to call out celebrity backed Neat Burger Nolita who is another trusted partner where our slices are used across their menu as well as in an exciting Bagel partnership with Ess-a-Bagel, Tindle and Just Egg — the ROMESS-A.

Chef Ash Fulk, head chef at Fox Life Hospitality also served us some blog-worthy quotes: “Yes it is great, best vegan cheese I have had! … Like it is actually melty and good.” A week later White Oak Tavern put in their first order.

The product can also be found at SMASHED, Burger Joint and a few other places across New York City, find them in the cheese finder.

If you’re not in NYC, we offer free samples for restaurant owners, distributors and other professionals.

Say hello to Stockeld Cultured Cheddar

The pizza cheese that landed on burgers

We’ve been at this product forever, or just over 4 years! And the truth is that for the 3 three years we aimed to develop the most sold cheese in the US, a Mozzarella for pizza. While we had prototypes that performed better than our peers it just never met the high standards that we set out for ourselves to justify a launch. At one point, we decided to test it for other applications beyond pizza and brought it to some well respected burger chefs. The result… RAVE REVIEWS and a pivot towards a melting sliced cheese, designed for burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, Mac ‘n Cheese and other similar applications.

Industrialization has been another massive challenge, finding a partner who has fermentation capabilities as well as cheese making and slicing. Eventually, we found a solution and strong partnerships in Ohio to make all this a reality. So many people at Stockeld have been involved in making this a reality, a big shoutout to all of us, what a team effort!

Now what?

Our goal with this product is to help make sustainable options tastier and more accessible for the masses. We aim to increase the number of restaurants carrying dairy-free cheese, to make operators give consumers a choice when they order burgers, whatever the patty is made of and to make kid’s menus more accessible with dairy-free grilled cheese. We hope to share some of our success stories in the months and years ahead.

Stay tuned to follow our journey with MELT on Instagram which is our most active channel.

*Source: McKinsey’s 2022 US Dairy Consumer Survey — 29% of US Population (100 million people) are eating plant-based dairy alternatives

**Source: SPINS Retail Natural Grocery Channel, SPINS Multi Outlet Conventional Channel 52 week ending 1–1–2023 https://gfi.org/marketresearch/#cheese

***Source: SPINS Retail Cheese Report, Data Through 9/1/2022. Food Service market assumed to be same size of Retail.

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Sorosh Tavakoli
The Stockeld Dreamery Blog

Founder & CEO Stockeld Dreamery | Founder of Videoplaza (sold in 2014) | Based in New York.