Plant-based cheese has a health problem. Like dairy, it’s packed full of saturated fat. And unlike dairy, most of the category is high in refined carbohydrates and largely lacking in protein.

Cathedral City Plant Based is a case in point. It contains more saturated fat per 100g than the brand’s dairy-based Mature line (25.5g versus 21.7g).

There’s also 22.4g of carbs and just 0.2g of protein. By comparison, Mature has next to no carbs and 25.4g of protein.

Most other plant-based cheeses have similar nutritional profiles – in part a consequence of the coconut oil favoured by most British brands.

Such oil is saturated, meaning it’s solid at room temperature and can be processed more easily than healthier unsaturated fats, which tend to be liquid at room temperature.

As for the carbs, this is due to the addition of starches from potatoes or grains that give plant-based cheeses their texture.

It’s not all downside, though. Coconut oil is free from trans fats and mainly composed of medium-chain fatty acids, meaning it is digested more quickly. It is also rich in lauric acid, which has anti-inflammatory properties.

What’s more, developing healthier cheese products has become a priority for plant-based brands.

“We are now putting the same focus that we have put on our emissions on to the health side of the product,” says Brad Vanstone, CEO of Dutch plant-based brand Willicroft, which claims its emissions are four to five times lower than typical dairy cheese producers.

“We can’t completely remove the fat, but we can switch to healthier fats. In two to three years, we will have products that are high in protein and lower in saturated fat and great for the planet,” he adds.

Violife’s head for northern Europe Victoria Slater also points out portion control is an important part of the context around health.

“Cheese is usually an indulgent luxury – you wouldn’t eat huge amounts because it wouldn’t be good for you,” she says. “But we are still looking forward to a future where protein is included in our product. Making healthier products is a top priority.”

That is for the near-term at least. Given how far plant-based cheese has come, it’s conceivable we’ll see a low-fat and low-carb plant-based cheese – just give it enough time.

Is Cathedral City a blessing for plant-based cheese? Plant-based cheese category report 2022