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I was at Trader Joe's again, and I bought this cheese alternative. Being hungry out of my mind, the thought to check the ingredients never crossed it. Now I, a vegan, am stuck with having to eat a "cheese alternative" that contains the following (lest a portion of my finite grocery budget be spent in vain):

  • Almond base
    • Filtered water
    • Crushed organic almonds
  • Casein
    • Milk protein
  • Expeller pressed canola oil
  • Modified potato starch
  • Natural Parmesan cheese flavor (adds a trivial amount of lactose)
    • Parmesan cheese
    • Pasteurized milk
    • Cheese cultures
    • Salt
    • Enzyme
    • Water
    • Salt
    • Xanthan gum
  • Vegetable glycerin
  • Sodium phosphate
  • Sea salt
  • Citric acid
  • Psyllium husk (a plant fiber)
  • Calcium phosphate

My question is this: What is the purpose of a cheese substitute that contains dairy? It's not suitable for people allergic to or otherwise averse to dairy Apparently it is, to an extent. So what's the thought process behind the development and release of this product?

  • My newborn son (apparently) has issues with dairy, so my wife has gone milk-free. What we understand from the Internet is that it's the casein that's mostly at fault when it comes to milk allergy (rather than lactose intolerance). This question was highly relevant to my current interests :) – Wayne Werner May 3 '16 at 13:19
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    Perhaps, it is cheaper than the real cheese? – Enivid May 3 '16 at 18:04
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    "Cheese cultures" are not a dairy product. They are actually bacterium or mold. – Matthew Whited May 3 '16 at 18:12
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    Apart from allergy considerations – I don't find such a product a totally unreasonable choice if it tastes better than any true vegan alternative, yet contains significantly less milk than real cheese. I'm not a vegan but somewhat lean towards flexitarianism on ethical grounds; if that stuff tastes good then I could well see myself using it to reduce my environment foodprint a little. (Unfortunately I also love good real cheese, but find most alternatives a heck lot less satisfying; I rather doubt I would like that particular product much.) – leftaroundabout May 3 '16 at 19:17
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    @JesseWilliams The fact that it claimed to be a mozzarella-styled cheese alternative. I agree that I should have looked at the packaging more closely; however, I was very hungry at the time and was more concerned about making delicious pizza bagels. – JesseTG May 4 '16 at 18:41
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Lactose intolerance (which is different from a milk allergy, which is a smaller group) comes in varying degrees, so this may be useful for people who can have a bit of lactose (who can process casein fine).

For example, many lactose intolerant people (who often avoid dairy) can handle non-dairy creamer fine (and varying amounts of cheese), even though it has casein. Many cheese substitutes still do use casein.

The parmesan adds glutemates to the mix, while casein gives a lot of structural properties to cheese (like melting ability for real cheese).

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    Huh. Guess this isn't a simple an issue as I thought it would be. Thanks! – JesseTG May 3 '16 at 7:43
  • AFAIK most cheeses contain little to no lactose at all. – MikeTheLiar May 3 '16 at 15:14
  • Theres a decent amount of range according to this page: stevecarper.com/li/list_of_lactose_percentages.htm. I'm not lactose intolerant so I've never had to worry about it – Batman May 3 '16 at 15:42
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    Milk allergy does make a smaller group worldwide but regionally may be as large as or even larger than people with lactose intolerance. In my country, the majority of the Malay people here have mild milk allergy that is most severe in children. On the other hand the Chinese people here tend to have lactose intolerance. – slebetman May 4 '16 at 3:03
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    There's almost no lactose at all in that product - hard cheeses like parmesan have nearly none, and casein itself is of course lactose-free. – Joe M May 4 '16 at 11:55
4

It's cheaper to produce than actual cheese. In fact, some years ago, technology in Eastern Europe caught up with the world but legislation didn't - and suddenly there was a scandal when people realized that what they are being sold as "cheese" is in fact something else. Even after the change in legislation (which required labelling of non-cheese alternatives as such) there still was a large market for the alternative, as a large proportion of the population is too poor to buy anything but the cheapest food, and for them it is the only way they can afford to eat cheese (or something which tastes like it).

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In reply to your question - "So what's the thought process behind the development and release of this product?" Answer - to trick you into buying their fake product by implying that it is vegan and doesn't contain dairy. I have noticed more and more fake vegan products coming into the supermarkets that all have some kind of animal by-product in it. Even though they don't directly claim to be vegan, they imply so by using the language of 'meat free' but are not ethical because they are made with caged produced eggs. And then there is also the 'soy cheese' that has dairy products in it. I got caught out with that product thinking it was vegan and bought it a few times before I realized it wasn't.

If the "cheese alternative" that you bought contains parmesan cheese and milk products like you named in the ingredient list then "cheese alternative" is false labeling because it has cheese in it and is therefore not a cheese alternative because it is cheese. There is absolutely no point to buying or eating this product.

  • How can a product be "fake vegan" if it's not labeled as vegan? If you're going to be on an extremely restrictive diet, you should know how to read labels and look for ingredients you do not wish to eat... or look for a marker that specifically says "vegan". – Catija May 4 '16 at 15:26
  • I think he has a valid point: Somebody that wants to do a vegan a favor might buy it and create a rather awkward situation. – rackandboneman May 24 '16 at 10:02
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  • Some people are intolerent to the fermentation process used to make the cheese (intolerent to some sort of bacteries I gess)
  • Some other people just don't like the taste of cheese, but like the other dairy products (e.g. yoghurts, cream) In both case, these cheese alternative are fine for them, and they can use it to cook meals that normally use cheese they wouldn't be able to eat.

Among my coworkers, I know one person in each case stated below.

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    They don't like the taste of cheese (which alone is funny enough – I can't even see what could be meant by “the taste of cheese”, since different cheeses tend to taste completely different), and yet they want something that's similar to cheese? I can't help finding this a bit weird. – leftaroundabout May 3 '16 at 19:04
  • I know right ? But that's what he told me, and he is not the first one to say that to me (althought they are very few). Worst part of it ? We are both french. – Vulpo May 6 '16 at 9:54

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