Babybel Launches Vegan Mini Cheese Wheels for Veganuary. Where to Get It

|Updated Dec 27, 2021

For years, Bel Brands, the maker of Babybell cheese, has teased that a vegan version of its popular mini Babybel wheels is coming soon, and finally, vegan cheese lovers can rejoice as the mini cheese wheels are now offered in a vegan version, just in time for "Veganuary" the UK-based awareness campaign to get more people to eat plant-based the first month of the year.

One hitch: The vegan versions of these adorable snack cheeses are only being introduced across the pond, in the UK for now. American consumers hoping to enjoy the plant-based Babybels will have to wait a little longer. Still, it's just the latest announcement from many companies preparing for the largest numbers of consumers yet to participate in Veganuary, the month of plant-based eating that started as a movement in the UK and has since grown into a global phenomenon with hundreds of thousands of participants each year.

Alongside Bel Brand’s UK launch, the budget-friendly grocery store chain Aldi has also announced its first vegan cheese line. The new vegan cheese alternatives are in response to the growing demand for plant-based dairy in recent years. With Veganuary just a few days away, more companies are catering to a growing vegan population in the UK where nearly one in three people consume plant-based dairy, according to a recent Mintel report.

BabyBel’s Vegan Cheese Wheels Arrive Sooner Than Expected

The French cheese brand BabyBel first introduced its iconic mini cheese wheels in 1977, becoming a lunch box staple for kids and a cocktail favorite on cheese plates the world over. The company has hinted it was working on bringing out a vegan alternative for years but with little progress – until earlier in 2021. Now the plant-based mini cheese wheels will hit Sainbury’s shelves on January 1, 2022, priced at £2.00 (or $2.69) per pack of five.

Vegan Babybel will be coconut oil-based and made completely preservative-free but will contain high levels of vitamin B12 and calcium as we as other nutrients. The response on their Instagram and in the press has been enthusiastically positive, with comments like: "YES! YES! YES! YES!" and also, "It’s a Christmas miracle ??"

“We’ve seen overwhelming demand for the development of a vegan-friendly Babybel over the years, and with the plant-based market continuing to grow substantially, the new launch is perfectly timed to meet this consumer appetite,” Ollie Richmond, Bel Brand’s Brand Manager, told The Grocer.

The company first introduced its plant-based ventures when it debuted its first vegan cheese brand Nurishh earlier this year. The vegan cheese selection offered slices and shreds that featured mozzarella, provolone, and cheddar variations, becoming available worldwide. The product line marked the first time the company veered away from the conventional dairy industry into the plant-based sector.

Bel Brands intends to “unlock incremental sales” with its BabyBel launch, timing it to hit markets at the beginning of Veganuary. The vegan campaign will help advertise the new vegan cheese product and propel it into the minds of consumers across the UK.

Aldi’s First Foray into Plant-Based Cheese

Aldi is also attempting to ride the Veganuary momentum by launching its first own-label plant-based cheese selection. The international supermarket chain introduced two new plant-based products including the dairy-free Mature Cheddar Block (£1.39) and the Grated Cheddar Pack (£1.39). The company announced that both products will be available on January 2, 2022, across its UK locations.

The two new store-label cheese will be sourced from coconut oil. The coconut oil-based products will also be made completely gluten- and soy-free. The new recipe is an attempt to provide consumers with a highly accessible alternative, adding to the grocery store company’s expanding plant-based offerings.

Aldi’s growing vegan selection already includes meat-free meatballs, vegan beef pasties, plant-based burgers, onion and rosemary sausages, and more. Advertising itself as one of the most budget-friendly grocery stores, Aldi’s plant-based cheese is cheaper than several of its competitors. The Aldi vegan cheese is 36 percent cheaper than Tesco’s £2.00 plant-based cheese. Compared to both Sainsbury’s and Mark & Spencer’s selections at £2.25, Aldi is 47 percent more affordable.

Veganuary’s Influence on the Vegan Cheese Market

Globally, vegan cheese is one of the fastest-growing plant-based sectors. Whole Foods Market released a report earlier this year that bet big on the future of vegan cheese, claiming that the growing market will inspire artisan alternatives in coming years. The global vegan cheese market is expected to reach $5.64 billion by 2028, according to a Grand View Research report.

The report also found that Europe accounted for the largest revenue share in vegan cheese in the last year. The vegan cheese market is fueled by organizations such as Veganuary that are pushing people to try plant-based foods. Preparing for the 2022 campaign, the organization enlisted tennis champion Venus Willians, acclaimed chef  Matthew Kenney, NYC mayor Eric Adams, and more.

“Although changing our diets is crucial to cutting greenhouse gas emissions, it can seem daunting, ”Veganuary’s Head of Communications Toni Vernelli said. “Signing up to Veganuary makes it much easier as our free pledge is full of helpful tips and advice, including a seven-day low carbon meal plan highlighting simple swaps that slash the carbon footprint of classic British dishes.”

Last year, the organization report that Veganuary counted 580,000 participants across 209 countries. The organization expects a much higher turnout this year, expanding its efforts worldwide and expecting more companies like Aldi and Babybel to join the plant-based movement. In 2021, companies revealed 825 new vegan products and menu items dedicated to the campaign, giving consumers a reason to anticipate a ton of new vegan products starting in January 2022.