A Deep Cove resident who developed the widely popular cheese substitute Daiya is now rolling in cheddar, after the company announced this week it’s being bought by a Japanese pharmaceutical company for $405 million.
Andre Kroecher started experimenting with vegan alternatives to cheese in 2005, in a quest to emulate that comforting melt and stretch component – without any chalkiness that often plagues imposters.
With no food science background, Kroecher and his Daiya co-founder Greg Blake started research and development kitchens in their homes, much to the chagrin of their wives.
They used tapioca or arrowroot flour instead of soy, a staple ingredient in many vegan products.
The first prototype was havarti-like in style, and Kroecher would bring it to social occasions without telling anyone that it wasn’t cheese.
“It would always vanish,” he told the News in 2011.
By then Daiya had caught the eye of media influencers Oprah and Ellen DeGeneres, who raved about the chameleon cheese on their shows.
Daiya found fans in vegans and those with dairy intolerance, standing alone in the fake cheese market.
To date, Daiya has developed 30 complete plant-based alternatives to dairy, which can be found on the shelves of 25,000 grocery stores in the U.S., as well as many restaurants across North America and internationally.
The Daiya collection runs the gamut of dairy alternatives including blocks, shreds, slices, sauces and even a cheesecake substitute.
On Thursday, it was announced Japanese-based Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. would be buying 100 per cent of Daiya, which is a privately held company.
Otsuka operates worldwide, including in the U.S. and Canada, where it distributes brands like Nature Made vitamins.
Operations and management under the leadership of CEO Terry Tierney will continue from Daiya’s current headquarters in Vancouver, where there are more than 200 employees.
“With aligned values and vision, Daiya and Otsuka have a tremendous opportunity to bring the incredible benefits of a plant-forward lifestyle to people around the world,” stated Tierney in a press release.
The new acquisition is expected to help increase Daiya’s presence throughout North America and beyond, while creating a global plant-based platform, according to the release.
Daiya’s net sales in 2016 were $79 million, up from $37 million in 2014.
More than 130 investors will benefit from the sale of the company.
While Daiya’s board has approved the acquisition, it’s still waiting for shareholder and court approval before the deal can be finalized.