Nurishh vegan Camembert is made in France for Bel Group, one of the largest and oldest cheesemakers in France, whose other brands includes Babybel and Boursin. Bel Group launched Nurishh in 2021 as its first 100% vegan brand, but has also recently introduced vegan versions of Babybel and Boursin (I picked up some vegan Babybel at the Grocery Outlet and will review it here soon). Some of the Nurishh vegan cheeses are available in the US while the Nurishh Camembert is mainly sold in the UK and Ireland, so far. I bought my Nurishh Camembert at Tesco Extra in Ireland (€4) and I would rate it as one of the best vegan cheeses I’ve found – especially among those at a price point on par with dairy cheese.
Review of Nurishh vegan Camembert
Shopping at a Tesco Extra in Ireland, I was excited to find a vegan version of Camembert. I’m fairly used to vegan versions of feta, cheddar, and cream cheese and I’ve found them to vary in resemblance to their dairy counterparts. (Some of the best vegan cheeses that I’ve found so far include Violife feta, Miyoko’s cheddar, and Spero cream cheese.) I was skeptical that a vegan version of Camembert (for €4) would be any good, but the packaging (a traditional light wooden box with a paper-wrapped round of cheese inside) gave me hope that this might be better than just edible.
I was actually very impressed by this cheese! Most cheeses require an appropriate serving method (i.e., with tomatoes, with relish, on a burger, etc.) to make them palatable, while the Nurishh Camembert was perfectly fine atop some toast with no other additions. Having said that, it is even better with some tomatoes and a sprinkling of salt – but then again, so is dairy Camembert. It spread and melted quite well into the toast and had more flavor than most of the other cheeses made from coconut oil and potato starch. It really did resemble dairy-based Camembert pretty well. This could be down to the bloomy rind, which I’ve asked Bel to confirm is Penicillium camemberti, the same fungus used to ripen conventional Camembert.
If you go online for reviews of this cheese, Google provides and excerpt from Tesco website, who says that it’s “absolutely terrible!” although the average rating on Tesco is a very respectable 4.2 out of 5. Strangely, even Tesco lists all of the bad reviews first – is it trying to kill this cheese?! The HuffPost also gave this cheese a terrible review in 2021, so I’m not sure if the recipe has improved since then, or it’s just a matter of taste. I’d highly recommend trying it if you live in the UK or Ireland & I hope to see it in the US soon.
Nurishh vegan Camembert – Ingredients and Nutrition Facts
Nurishh vegan Camembert – Ingredients: Water, coconut oil, modified starch, sunflower protein, salt, natural flavouring, acidity regulator: lactic acid, sugar, colour: beta carotene, cultures.
Like many vegan cheeses, this Nurishh Camembert is made from mainly coconut oil and starch. There are a few other additions that may make the difference in texture and flavor. There’s protein from sunflower seeds – interestingly, one of my favorite vegan cheese spreads was made from sunflower seeds, by Spero. Perhaps more important is the last ingredient, simply listed as “cultures” (although it’s listed as “ferments” on the Nurishh website) – which could refer to a fungus used to ripen the cheese (Penicillium camemberti) or it could refer to an ingredient made by a microbe in a fermentor. Nurishh is using vegan milk protein made by a fungus by biotech company, Perfect Day, for its vegan cream cheese products, but I don’t think this is the case for its Camembert.
How sustainable is coconut oil?
The main ingredient in Nurishh Camembert is coconut oil. We tend to think that coconut oil is more sustainable than palm oil, but I don’t always take that as a given. It’s a bit complicated because palm oil has a higher yield, but is pretty much always grown as a monoculture, destroying habitats. Coconut trees tend to be smaller operations that are more integrated with local habitats. Here’s what Nurishh has to say about sourcing of coconut oil:
To date, the coconut oil used in Nurishh products comes from the Philippines, Indonesia and the Marshall Islands. It’s almost non-existent in Western countries, thus making local supply impossible. Bel Group’s partners must systematically take note of our “Code of Good Business Practices” which is based on seven key principles and can be found here. – Nurishh
And here’s an excerpt from a Treehugger piece on coconut oil:
In general, the main environmental issue associated with coconut cultivation is deforestation. Many of the conversations surrounding the environmental impact of coconut oil compare it to palm oil, which grows in the same tropical regions with important levels of biodiversity. Although they can still be developed as a single crop in a single area at one time (also known as monoculture), coconut trees aren’t associated with the same level of deforestation as palm oil trees.
While oil palm trees tend to produce higher quantities of oil than coconut trees, coconuts generate more products—such as coconut milk, cream, water, and activated charcoal. Coconut trees also grow well with other crops like banana, coffee, and cacao, integrating more naturally with the surrounding environment, whereas palm oil trees don’t mix well with other plants. Coconuts are also harvested by hand rather than gas-guzzling machinery. – Treehugger.
Nurishh is owned by Bel Group – how ethical is Bel?
Nurishh Camembert is made by major cheese manufacturer, Bel Group. Perhaps the best way to summarize the situation is that Nurishh is a pretty ethical brand while Bel Group is a mediocre corporation, at best. Bel Group falls into the category of large corporations that have set targets for 2025 (on issues such as deforestation and animal welfare) that it should have addressed earlier. But the main reason that Bel Group is mediocre in terms of social and environmental impact is the nature of its business – dairy cheese. Particularly dairy cheese made on a large scale from milk sourced mainly from large indoor dairy operations.
However, the company is changing by introducing some plant-based options, most notably the Nurishh brand, so perhaps the best way of encouraging Bel to change is by supporting these brands. I’ve dealt with this topic of whether to buy vegan products made by less ethical corporations before, so I’ll refer you to that post for more on that topic.
Ethical rating for Nurishh Camembert
I’m scoring Nurishh Camembert 4/5 Green Stars for social and environmental impact, for these reasons:
- A vegan product. Adopting a plant-based diet is the top thing you can do to mitigate deforestation & climate change and to end animal cruelty and the negative impact that the meat industry has on society.
- Brand owner, Bel Group, is mainly in the business of dairy products. Bel is mediocre for animal welfare and environmental impact. The creation of vegan brand Nurishh is a step in the right direction.
- The cheese is wrapped in waxed paper, inside a light wooden box. The box can be composted, after removing the staples that hold it together.
- Palm oil free. The main ingredient, coconut oil, is not organic.
Summary scores (out of 5) for Nurishh Camembert:
- 4.5 gold stars for quality and value
- 4 green stars for social and environmental impact
If you have a different opinion, please share your rating! Until next time, stay safe : )