Canadian entrepreneur Sophia Banks recently launched vegan powdered cheese company Vegan Canteen. Banks previously owned a vegan café of the same name in Quebec but was pressured to close after it was repeatedly vandalized, broken into and robbed, and Banks was threatened with transphobic messages. Since then, Banks moved to British Columbia and has launched the new cheese business in hopes of recouping some of the costs from her last venture. Vegan Canteen offers packaged, shelf-stable powdered vegan cheese that can be transformed into cheese sauce within minutes on the stovetop. The cheese mix is currently available in two flavors—cheddar and smoked applewood—and can be shipped across Canada.
“For years I was making cashew cheeze and selling in local farmers markets. When I moved out West and decided to take our vegan cheese into retail I wanted to offer something new and different,” Banks said. “My motivations were to offer something that didn’t come along with the problems of exploitive cashew farming and production, deforestation, and the sometimes questionable ethics of coconut oil—the high carbon footprint that comes along with all those practices.” Instead, her product is made from nutritional yeast, pea protein isolate, tapioca flour, and spices.
Earlier this month, Banks was faced with controversy surrounding competing vegan powdered cheese company Plantworthy Food, which launched with similar packaging. Both companies use predominantly blue packaging that features a metal-looking utensil holding a noodle dripping with cheese sauce, block lettering, and the words “guilt-free.”
“Okay, use the blue packaging, and I can’t say anything about them using ‘guilt-free’ either, because we can’t trademark that sort of stuff; I’m not Pepsi,” Banks told media outlet Eater Montreal. “But the fork with the cheesy noodles? That is just a blatant rip-off. I just don’t believe that they never heard of us. If they didn’t, that is just such poor research on their part and their designers.” Banks is hoping Plantworthy will adjust its design by removing the specific details she believes were copied from Vegan Canteen packaging.