What does it take to launch a plant-based cheese dynasty? Miyoko Schinner, CEO and Founder of Miyoko's Creamery, arguably one of the most successful plant-based cheese companies, sat down with me for the Plantbased Business Hour, a digital  interview series, to share her secrets to success on everything from how to make the best vegan grilled cheese sandwich to running a multi-million dollar business during a pandemic

It's easy to see Schinner as a leading light in the vegan movement, since she has been a vegan for 35 years, is an outspoken advocate for animal rights, and has created a runaway hit product (her vegan butter and cheeses), but even she admits she got tripped up on the road to becoming fully committed to veganism. In her early days, Miyoko admits she would “cheat” by eating cheese from time to time. “That was the hardest thing. I didn’t eat cheese very often, but occasionally I would cheat. And I just kept cheating,” she explained, “but when I finally made the connection about the babies being taken away (from their mothers), it was like, okay, I can’t cheat anymore.”

 

Her decision to go full-on vegan eventually led to the launching of Miyoko’s Creamery. Giving up cheese was a tough decision, so making her own vegan cheese was on her bucket list of must-dos. Miyoko credits her husband for launching her into action, as a line of self-defense.

Alonya Eisenberg

 

 

 

 

 

 

“One day (my husband) said, ‘I’m tired of not having cheese in the house.’ And he started buying cheese. And next thing you knew, I had cheese in my refrigerator. And that was it. I was like, ‘Okay, this cannot happen!’ And that’s when I started playing around with vegan cheese.”

Fast forward several years and Miyoko’s newest products, melty-gooey Cheddar and Pepper Jack Cheeses (cashew-free and indistinguishable from dairy cheese to most tastebuds) are rolling out across Whole Foods this month. Cheese lovers who are vegan or plant-based will be delighted to know they can get busy on the classic grilled cheese, a staple of the American diet! Below, Miyoko shares her tips for rocking a grilled cheese sandwich like a pro!

1.) Be sure to use the right cooking method. You should use either a panini/grilled cheese press or use a griddle/skillet with a lid to ensure the best melting.

2.) Start with good ingredients. Traditional grilled cheese is simple, so it's important to use quality ingredients. Personally, I love a high-quality sourdough bread, perhaps from your local bakery. I also suggest using our new cheddar cheese or pepper jack cheese, if you prefer a little spice! Not all vegan cheeses melt equally, but our new cheddar and pepper jack melt and function exactly like dairy cheese, which makes them perfect for making a gooey grilled cheese sandwich. Finally use your favorite vegan butter - my go-to is always Miyoko's cultured vegan butter. Slather both sides of the bread with this before putting into the pan.

3.) Have fun with it! There are so many ways to liven up the traditional grilled cheese and it's hard to mess up if you're adding flavors that you like. Maybe you want to add caramelized onions for some sweetness, or mushrooms and truffle for something a little more elegant. Don't be afraid to get creative! (The Beet has a grilled cheese and spinach recipe that is perfect; just use Miyoko's cheese in the recipe.)

 

Vegan Cheese and Dairy are Leading the Plant-Based Market Growth

More and more consumers are discovering plant-based cheeses, milks, and yogurts. According to the Good Food Institute, plant-based cheeses racked up $189 million in sales in 2019, up 51% since 2017. Plant-based yogurts accounted for $283 million in sales in 2019, up 95% in two years. Plant-based milk topped $2 billion in sales in 2019 and now represents 14% of all milk sales.

Even in these uncertain times, Miyoko is optimistic for the future. “I’m just full of hope. I really do believe that this is the pivotal point when things are going to change. I think COVID-19 is a really horrible time for people, but if we can see this as our opportunity to make change, it’s going to happen faster and faster. I’m very hopeful for the future of a vegan world.”

To watch and listen to the full interview, go here. To watch and listen to other vegan celeb interviews with Elysabeth on her podcast, Awesome Vegans, go here. 

Elysabeth Alfani is a plant-based expert for mainstream media, breaking down the plant-based health, food, business and environmental news for the general public on radio and TV.