Babybel's Plant-Based Cheese Is Finally Available In The US

Babybel had great news for vegans last year when it launched its first snack-sized, dairy-free cheese — but only in the U.K. As of this month, however, plant-based-curious customers in the 50 states can buy the new vegan Babybel, as parent company Bel Brands announced in a press release. Clad in green wax instead of the familiar red, the vegan cheese can be found at Whole Foods, Sam's Club, Fresh Thyme, and southeastern Costco locations.

In a previous announcement about the plant-based cheese's arrival in the U.S., Bel Brands — which also produces Laughing Cow — said it was also preparing to launch non-dairy Laughing Cow cheeses in 2023. Babybel's new line of vegan products follows an explosion in the popularity of plant-based cheeses, which topped $2 billion in sales in 2019 and are only continuing to grow (via Vegconomist). While this is still nowhere close to the $118 billion market for traditional cheeses, it's a sign that cheese made without animal products is here to stay.

What might be in Babybel's new plant-based cheese?

Bel Brands' original Babybel cheeses are among the most popular cheese brands, and the company says that its new vegan variety replicates the familiar, mozzarella-like taste and texture of the red-wrapped favorites. However, Bel Brands' product listing for the plant-based cheese does not offer details about the main ingredient beyond "modified food starch." It also includes coconut oil, salt, and calcium.

So, what ingredients are found in other dairy-free cheeses? Rather than animal milk proteins, plant proteins like soy and nuts take the charge in most vegan cheeses. While traditional milk proteins coagulate easily, plant proteins don't naturally bond together as strongly (via EatingWell). To address this issue, vegan cheesemakers typically add vegetable oils, thickeners, and starches to mimic the texture of traditional cheese. However, one sticking point has been why vegan cheese doesn't melt — it has no casein, a milk protein that helps traditional cheeses melt in that satisfyingly oozy way.

Though it's new, U.S. customers have already been sharing photos of the plant-based Babybel on social media, along with some mixed opinions. "Vegan Baby Bel spotted at Whole Foods!" one Twitter user exclaimed with a heart emoji. "Worst thing I've ever put in my mouth," another person tweeted. Looks like we'll have to unwrap a green round and decide for ourselves!