Violife has produced a vegan feta cheese, Just Like Feta, that’s probably the best vegan cheese product that I’ve had so far. It seems appropriate that Violife is based in Greece, where feta cheese originated. Typically, vegan cheeses like sliced cheddar and mozzarella are not really that appealing to eat on their own, but are alright when melted on toast or a burger. The Violife feta, however, is perfectly good to eat on its own, or (the way I’ve been eating it) in Greek salads. When combined with olives, tomatoes, etc., I really can’t tell that this feta is vegan.
The texture is about right for feta and, as it comes packed in a little brine, it tastes salty like regular feta. One of the ingredients is Glucono delta lactone, also known as gluconolactone, which is marketed for use in feta cheese because it adds a tangy taste. So, basically the cheese is salty, slightly tangy and approximates the texture of feta pretty well. If you’re not sure about vegan cheese, having perhaps tried some that feel like plastic and taste of nothing, I’d recommend giving it a try! It cost $1.99 at the Grocery Outlet, compared to a normal price of around $6.
In future posts, I’ll cover other cheese products such as spreads, cheddar, mozzarella, etc.
Plant-based cheese begins to take off
According to Forbes, in Jan 2020, plant-based cheese grew by 69% over the previous two years but still represents less than 1% of cheese sales. However, vegan cheese is getting better and it has been fun to try out the many brands that I’ve come across at the Grocery Outlet, from Miyoko’s Creamery to Violife, Daiya, So Delicious, and others.
Here’s how Miyoko Schinner (founder of the Miyoko’s Creamery, based in the SF Bay Area) describes it:
“Vegan cheese options were created for people who had become vegans or vegetarians who loved cheese and craved a replacement. While current offerings may have been reasonable substitutes that were ‘good enough’ for vegans, they do not taste and perform like cow dairy and have low if any appeal to omnivores,” she says.– Forbes.
Miyoko herself was one of the first people to market a cultured vegan butter that was head and shoulders above the kind of products that were available until then (like Earth Balance). Since then, Miyoko’s Creamery has produced pretty good cheese products that helped me kick the dairy cheese habit. Now I’ll include Violife’s feta too.
Violife, Just Like Feta – ingredients
Filtered Water, Coconut Oil, Potato Starch, Salt (Sea Salt), Glucono Delta Lactone, Flavor (vegan sources), Olive Extract, Vitamin B12.
As mentioned above, the glucono delta lactone adds a tangy taste and is made by microbial fermentation of glucose. According to Violife’s FAQs, “the vegan flavouring in Violife is derived via simple extraction or fermentation of plant based sources.” So they are not giving much away there. I like that Violife went to the trouble to add vitamin B12 to the product, helping vegetarians who may rely on dairy for B12 to switch to this plant-based version. Like most vegan cheese (and regular dairy cheese, for that matter) the product is predominantly fat. Here’s some nutritional information along with certifications and a few of the awards that Violife has picked up:
Ethical rating for Violife’s vegan feta
Overall, I think that Violife deserves 4.5 Green Stars for social and environmental impact, based on these factors:
- It’s a certified vegan product as are all of Violife’s products.
- The main ingredients (coconut, potato, olive) rank well for sustainability and there are no controversial ingredients like palm oil.
- Being an EU product, the ingredients are a little more controlled than they would be in the US.
- It’s a very good substitute for animal-based feta. As mentioned in my post on Fry’s BBQ pizza, this is important even as an ethical criterion because we aren’t so likely to move away from animal products unless vegan versions are actually tasty.
- Packaging is about as minimal as it can be for this kind of product. See below for a note from Violife about switching to recyclable plastic for products such as its cheese slices.
- Violife hasn’t done a very good job so far at communicating on sustainability. This is odd, for such a high-profile and award-winning vegan food company. However, I did get some responses from the company, which I’ll summarize after this video that introduces Violife.
Violife’s main ingredient: Coconut oil
Growing coconuts doesn’t require pesticides or herbicides. Furthermore as members of Sedex we procure ethically cultivated coconuts and our suppliers – also members of Sedex – forbid the use of monkeys and children for the collection of the coconuts. The coconut is harvested in Indonesia, Philippines, Papua New Guinea.– Violife, personal communication
The first statement is not accurate: some coconut farms do use pesticides. Agricultural inputs such as pesticide, fertilizer and herbicide are usually quite low on coconut farms but it depends on the grower.
We are happy to say that Violife has already been conducting tests with recyclable materials in order to switch our packaging to eco-friendly materials and the time line for this is estimated for our tray packaging of slices to be March 2022 and for the grated bags, May 2022.– Violife, personal communication
Violife company Sustainability
Regarding energy and water use, etc. please kindly note that we are currently working on the lifecycle assessment of Violife products in cooperation with an external agency. This project is very crucial for the company as in our notion is to hold scientific documentation for the evaluation of environmental impacts, such carbon emissions, use of water, land and energy, waste production and biodiversity.– Violife, personal communication
Summary scores (out of 5) for Violife’s Just Like Feta:
- 4.5 gold stars for quality and value
- 4.5 green stars for social and environmental impact
If you have a different opinion, please share your rating! Until next time, stay safe : )