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You don't need to give up cheeses, milk and coffee creamers to go vegan

You don't need to give up cheeses, milk and coffee creamers to go vegan
Oats are the basis of vegan milks from Swedish brand Oatly. (Oatly)

Consumption of plant-based dairy is on the rise.

By 2022, global sales of dairy alternatives are expected to reach $21.7 billion: Store shelves are increasingly filled with yogurt, milk, cheese, coffee creamers and cream cheese — only they're made from nuts, seeds, rice, oats, coconut and even peas. But as brands are increasingly recognizing, a vegan dairy-style product has to mimic the taste and texture of the real thing.

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"It's not about sacrifice anymore," said Jenna Blumenfeld, senior food editor at New Hope Network, organizer of the upcoming Expo West natural products trade show in Anaheim. "These products used to have horrible connotations and were only for hardcore vegans. Now consumers are not necessarily vegan or on a food diet but are looking for ways to lower their cholesterol or eat fewer animal products and want the creamy mouthfeel of dairy."

Here are four plant-based dairy products worth trying:

Oatly is an oatmilk — yes, a milk substitute made from oats. The Swedish-based brand that has been around for 25 years, and entered the U.S. market last year to cater to Americans seeking more healthful alternatives, such a products made with fiber-rich oats, said general manager Mike Messersmith.

"Consumers have high expectations for products, they want better taste and texture, and are not willing to accept a plant-based product that tastes lousy," he said. The brand started in the U.S. as a barista-friendly creamer in trendy coffee shops and is now in retail versions, in plain and chocolate, and in both creamier and lower-fat formulations. The low-fat plain Oatly has 90 calories per cup.

Info: $23 for a six-pack at oatly.com

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Being unveiled at Expo West — and on grocery store shelves soon after — are portable yogurt tubes in strawberry-banana and wild berry from plant-based brand Kite Hill, which was founded with the idea of creating cultured cheese-like products in the style of premium French cheese. There's a Jalapeño Cream Cheese Style Spread made from almond milk, and Greek-style yogurts in various flavors, all made from cultured almonds. Soon-to-launch also are probiotic drinkable yogurts.

Info: Jalapeno Cream Cheese, $5.99. Greek-style yogurts, $1.99. Available at Whole Foods Market. kite-hill.com

Probiotic cultures are added to almond milk to create the creamy texture of flavored Greek-style yogurts.
Probiotic cultures are added to almond milk to create the creamy texture of flavored Greek-style yogurts. (Kite Hill)

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Sonoma-based artisanal vegan cheese maker Miyoko Schinner, a lifelong vegetarian, created her line of gourmet plant-based cheeses to satisfy her love for dairy while honoring her compassion for animals. Her signature cheese wheels are made from organic cashews, organic rice miso and nutritional yeast. These include the Classic Double Cream Chive that spreads onto crackers and bread ($9.99) or the Smoked Vegan Mozzarella that melts easily ($8.99).

Info: $9.99 for the Double Cream Chive, and $8.99 for the smoked mozzarella. Available at Erewhon, Whole Foods Market and Mother's Market. miyokoskitchen.com

Double-cream chive cheese
Double-cream chive cheese (Tim Porter / Miyoko's Kitchen)

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Made from almond and coconut milks, Nutpods were designed as a non-dairy half-and-half for plant-based consumers who like their coffee creamy. Madeline Haydon, founder of the Seattle-based brand created it because she was lactose intolerant and couldn't find a creamer she liked.

"The selection of dairy-free creamer alternatives was nonexistent," she said. "Milk versus cream does different things to the experience of the ritual of coffee." The product comes in vanilla, hazelnut and original, and in sweetened and unsweetened versions.

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Info: $3.49 at Ralph's, Mother's Market and Lazy Acres. nutpods.com

Comes in vanilla, hazelnut and original flavors, and in sweetened and unsweetened versions.
Comes in vanilla, hazelnut and original flavors, and in sweetened and unsweetened versions. (Nut-Pods)

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