Plant-based dairy manufacturer Swees has announced that it is opening “Thailand’s first” industrial-scale vegan cheese production plant in early 2023.
The two-year-old startup currently operates out of Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand. It is embarking on an ambitious growth plan designed to increase the availability of its animal-free cheeses to both catering and retail customers.
Alongside domestic customers, Swees hopes to grow its presence in the wider Asia-Pacific (APAC) region. CEO Nicolas Frauenfelder says this area is following in Europe’s footsteps and seeing a surge in plant-based food interest.
Plant-based cheese, not just for vegans
Swees was founded in 2019 and officially launched in 2020 following a successful debut at the Thaifex food fair.
Using locally sourced soybeans in place of dairy, Swees aims to appeal to health-conscious consumers, not just vegans. As such, it negates palm oil, trans fats, sugar, and GMO ingredients in its nondairy range.
It also maintains focus on a key demographic: lactose-intolerant consumers.
It is thought that around 90 percent of Asian people encounter some degree of lactose intolerance. Despite this, the demand for conventional dairy products is increasing. Asia is now identified as the world’s biggest dairy consumer, with China and India driving the trend.
However, as consumers begin to prioritize health in a post-pandemic world, and as plant-based dairy alternatives become more freely available, the APAC vegan cheese market specifically is anticipated to grow at an annual rate of 15.17 percent.
Dairy’s environmental impact
Alongside accounting for consumer health concerns, Swees positions itself as an environmental alternative to conventional dairy. The dairy sector is linked to a host of environmental consequences, including deforestation, soil degradation, and water pollution from manure and fertilizer runoff.
Emissions are also a major concern — dairy cheese production is said to be responsible for around four percent of total greenhouse gas emissions.
Experts are calling for methane emissions specifically to be reduced by 30 percent by 2030. Notably, one cow can belch upwards of 220 pounds of methane each year, and there are an estimated 270 million dairy cows currently being reared by the dairy industry.
Recent research suggests that plant-based cheese has 50 percent fewer emissions tied to it than conventional dairy alternatives. Swees has also pointed out alternative research that places the figure even higher.
“The opening of the vegan plant-based cheese factory in Thailand is historic in all ramifications, as it is designed as a sustainable new production facility to produce vegan cheese for Thailand and save the environment, with studies revealing that plant-based cheese releases 80 percent less CO2 emissions compared to dairy cheese,” Frauenfelder said in a statement.
The company has just launched an initial fundraising round to support its expansion plans. And, to support the development of a new line of cashew-based cheeses.