Capital V, the VC firm, announced its first investment in the alternative cheese category by funding the Amsterdam-based craft cheese producer Willicroft. The firm is founded by prolific vegan investor Michiel van Deursen.
Founded in 2018, the brand’s This is Not Cheese variety has more than doubled each year. Given the success in the Netherlands and Belgium, Willicroft expanded the range into the UK the following October 2020.
Founder Brad Vanstone explained “The reason plant-based producers use cashews as a base ingredient is because they’re high in fat and protein. These components are crucial to dairy cheesemaking so when making a plant-based replacement this was the base we sought too. We, therefore, trialled around 30 alternative ingredients that had similar nutritional properties to cashews (and therefore milk) whilst also factoring in other considerations such as cost, water content, availability, neutral flavour, and their locality to the Netherlands.
“This research and experimentation brought us to beans and pulses. These ingredients will lower our emissions due to reduced processing and transportation and could also be a gateway to us beginning our transitional farming projects where we help dairy farmers transition away from dairy by planting the ingredients on their land.”
When speaking of Willicroft, van Deursen stated “Being Dutch, cheese has always been a big part of my life since my childhood. Of course, cheese is not environmentally or animal friendly at all, so since being vegan, I am always seeking out plant-based alternatives that also give me the taste of my childhood.
“I found that in Willicroft – the product is amazing, and above that, they produce it with the lowest footprint in mind. They have a mission-aligned, ambitious team, and I am excited to see Willicroft cheese in retail all over Europe.”
He added that Willicroft stood out for its innovative cheese products, connections within the plant-based space, and for the fact that it is applying to be a B Corp.
Vanstone said “I have known Michiel for 18 months now and he is a very well connected and important member of the PBC community who has also recently been given a role within the EU commission on climate change. He brings with him a wealth of experience of investing in plant-based companies.”