Anne Guth, 28, launched her company Les Petits Veganne after struggling to find reasonably-priced vegan cheese in France.
Her Camembert is made from cashew nut milk and appears virtually indistinguishable to the eye from the usual white circular blocks.
However, perhaps not the taste. When challenged in a blind tasting test conducted by the news site FranceInfo, cheesemonger Clément Maudet said: “The texture is bizarre – it’s quite mousse-like. It is a very mild product, but with a not-altogether pleasant aftertaste.”
While cheap industrial Camembert costs €1.41 and its more specialist AOP raw milk version costs €6, the vegan version will set you back €10.90.
The process of making the vegan Camembert is similar to that when using normal milk, combining the cashew nut milk with cultures, fermenting it to create the shape, and maturing it for taste over at least one month. The only stage that is missed is the curdling process seen with normal milk, but otherwise the process includes the fermentation stage, the refinement process, and final maturation. The Lorraine-based company also makes blue cheese (Le Bleu Lorrain) and garlic soft cheese (Le Petit Frais à l’Ail) and hopes to produce upwards of 3,000 ‘cheeses’ per month.
Independent cheese makers and factory rivals in Normandy have agreed to meet this month to discuss an agreement over the labels Camembert AOP de Normandie and Fabriqué en Normandie.
It is hoped the meeting end the ‘Camembert wars’ between major industrial producers, whose cheeses are Fabriqué en Normandie using pasteurised milk and independent artisans, who stick to traditional techniques and use unpasteurised milk as demanded by the strict appellation d’origine protégée (AOP) label.