A few kinds of Good Planet cheese can be bought (at a discount) at the Grocery Outlet. I’ve tried the shredded mozzarella and hot pepper cheese slices and thought that both were pretty good. I’ll get to sustainability later on and decide on a “Green Stars” rating for social and environmental impact. I also have a helpful comment from Good Planet’s CEO on the search for sustainable packaging for vegan cheese. But first, I’ll review the vegan cheese products in terms of quality.
Detroit-style pizza with Good Planet cheese
I first came across Good Planet cheese through an Oakland pizzeria, Square Pie Guys, who use it in their vegan Detroit-style pizza. Detroit-style pizza is cooked in a square cake pan; originally, 75 years ago, it was baked in steel pans from the auto industry. It has a cheesy, focaccia-like crust – bready in the middle but deliciously crispy on the outside. The outer surface of the crust becomes crispy and cheesy thanks to the layer of Wisconsin’s “brick cheese” (a slightly soft cheddar) that is layered out to the edges of the dough.
Anyhoo, the Good Planet cheese worked really well in that situation, so I was sufficiently motivated to try it out myself.
Good Planet vegan mozzarella
I made a couple of simple pizzas at home and tried four different kinds of mozzarella on top: vegan mozzarella from Good Planet, Forager and Miyoko’s Creamery, alongside some dairy mozzarella. Honestly, I thought that all three vegan brands of mozzarella performed as well as the dairy version in terms of taste and texture.
The differences became a bit more obvious when you consider appearance. Miyoko’s and the dairy mozzarella were almost indistinguishable – they both melted well and browned a little bit. Forager mozzarella wasn’t too far behind and then came the Good Planet mozzarella – it was the palest and least melty of the four cheeses. But wait! It just looked like it wasn’t melted – it actually had the texture of melted cheese.
So, I thought that the Good Planet mozzarella was as good as the others in all senses except for visual. Maybe you can get it to brown a little by cranking up your oven up to 500 °F (mine was reportedly around 450 °F) but I was still pretty happy with my version, once I took a bite.
Good Planet hot pepper cheese
I’ve tried quite a few of the vegan cheese slices at this point, and I’d rank Good Planet’s hot pepper cheese slices fairly high. There’s not a massive difference between many brands of vegan cheese slices, and that’s not too surprising as most of them are made from similar ingredients – coconut oil and starch. There’s definitely an opportunity for vegan food companies to be a bit more inventive with flavors.
The hot pepper slices from Good Planet are a bit better than most, simply because they have some character – a little heat (not that much) and bell pepper flavor. The vegan cheese slices melt fairly well on toast or in a grilled cheese and worked well enough that they didn’t last too long in my fridge (unlike one or two other brands). There are more flavorful vegan cheeses, like Miyoko’s cheese wheels, but they are a bit more expensive.
Good Planet mozzarella – ingredients
Filtered water, potato starch, coconut oil, modified food starch (potato), sea salt, mozzarella flavor (vegan sources), citrus fiber, sorbic acid (preservative), beta-carotene (color), powdered cellulose added to prevent caking.
Good Planet hot pepper slices – ingredients
Filtered water, coconut oil, modified food starch (potato & tapioca), sea salt, calcium citrate, green & red chili peppers, bell pepper flavor (vegan sources), sorbic acid (preservative), paprika extract & beta carotene (color).
As you can see from the ingredients, above, and the Nutrition Facts panels, below, there’s not a huge difference between these two products. They are also similar to many other vegan cheeses – saturated fat from coconut oil and a few grams of carbs from the starch.
One thing I just found out, though – the shredded mozzarella contains cellulose as an anti-caking agent – I think that’s why it doesn’t melt so well. I’m not a big fan of shredded cheese, in any case – a block uses less packaging you don’t have to deal with anti-caking agents that actually make it perform worse.
Sustainable packaging for vegan cheese
I came across this interview with David Israel, Founder and Co-CEO of Good Planet Foods, and thought there were some useful comments on sustainable packaging. I’ll share the video and then share a quote about sustainable packaging, taken from 23 minutes into the video.
“Packaging is a challenge. There is packaging out there that’s either recyclable or biodegradable. But the problem is – we can use it – but the consumers won’t want it and the buyers at the stores won’t buy it. Because it degrades the shelf life of your product, and it’s super-expensive. So it creates two problems – it shortens the shelf life of your product by a lot, literally probably by 80%, and then it increases your cost. So it makes it very challenging – I can do it – but our buyers at the stores will not by it because it prices us out of the market. Our team is constantly looking for packaging that’s biodegradable or recyclable. – from David Israel, Founder and Co-CEO of Good PLANeT Foods, Interview with Real Leaders Magazine.
Since then, Good Planet released a new product line – soft cheese triangles – that are packaged in cardboard that’s 90% post-consumer recycled. The best approach for most goods packaged in plastic is just to buy them sparingly and set a waste limit goal. This is a good time to refer you to my Green Stars Project post on a tactic that can help you reduce your domestic waste.
Ethical rating for Good Planet cheese
Here’s a summary of how I feel about the social and environmental impact of Good Planet cheese, which I’m rating 4 out of 5 Green Stars:
- All Good Planet products are vegan. Adopting a plant-based diet is the top thing you can do to mitigate deforestation & climate change and to end animal cruelty and the insidious negative impact that the meat industry has on society.
- Statement from Good Planet on its main ingredient, coconut: “The coconut oil we use is sourced from a supplier who is focused on improving farmer livelihoods and keeping them interested in growing coconuts, as well as rejuvenating the coconut industry in Indonesia and Malaysia.”
- Besides that statement, Good Planet doesn’t provide much information on the impact of the company.
- I did find a bit more information, however, in the video shown above – David talks a little bit about things like social impact and company ethos. For example, hiring transitioning felons and supporting local food banks.
- Good Planet recently launched a new line of cheese wedges, packaged in cardboard that’s 90% post-consumer material (and recyclable).
- However, the new cheese wedge line also introduces a new ingredient for Good Planet – palm oil. Good Planet was responsive to questions about this. Currently, I would rate their palm oil supply chain at mediocre (commodity market mix of RSPO-certified Mass Balance and Identity Preserved palm oil) but they have plans to seek out a more sustainable supply as they buy more palm oil in 2022. Hoping they’ll go the right way with that.
Summary scores (out of 5) for Good Planet cheese:
- 3.5 gold stars for quality and value. I liked the hot pepper slices (4 stars) more than the mozzarella (3 stars).
- 4 green stars for social and environmental impact
If you have a different opinion, please share your rating! Until next time, stay safe : )