Get to know usOnce Upon a Time
At Bute Island Foods we’ve been passionate about vegan foods for 30 years. Read our backstory here to get an idea of how the award winning dairy free Sheese was born, and the changes our company has undergone over the years to continue delivering the highest quality dairy, gluten and animal free vegan foods that we can.
With humble Artisan beginnings around a farmhouse kitchen table, a Cheddar style soya-based cheese alternative was developed and called Sheese (originally “Scheese” does anyone remember this old one? Here it makes us feel our age)
Bute Island Foods completely renovated a very small derelict stone building on the island, and established the first official production of hand-crafted Sheese in the completely animal and Dairy Free site
Sheese quickly gained in popularity, with seven more flavours being added to create a more extensive range to choose from. The demand for Sheese saw it becoming available in many other European countries, starting with Sweden, Germany and Holland. For many years it was completely produced by hand, including the individual weighing out and shaping of each item, using a hand-press!
The now managing director of Bute Island Foods (Deb) having been seriously ill as a child and unable to eat dairy or animal products, purchased the fledgling company, determined to develop and produce a wide range of alternatives to dairy food products. Her fellow directors (Frans, Guy & Mark) who also do not eat any dairy or animal products, joined her with the same specific target in mind: to research, develop and produce a top of the range alternative to animal cheese, coming as close as possible to the original, traditional cheeses, in taste and texture, but without the harmful effects suffered by so many
Demand had outgrown production capabilities and so new state-of-the-art machinery was purchased, increasing product capacity by 100%.
The following year, with a complete labelling and packaging redesign undertook (introducing the convenient re-sealable packs), came a new delicious range of soft spreadable Creamy Sheese
A new melting range of Sheese was developed, which coincided with the company being approached by Tesco, who were looking to sell a complete range of Dairy Free chilled products in their stores. They began stocking Melty and Creamy Sheese under their own Free From brand. To start with, Sheese was only available in 180 stores, but soon expanded to 500 to 800 stores across the UK!
Again demand had outgrown capacity, so the whole team moved into larger premises on the island. Well, believe it or not, but to keep producing our Vegan & Dairy Free Sheese, we purchased the “Old Creamery” which had lain empty for two and a half years! After a complete & total renovation, both BRC accreditation & the installation of dedicated Dairy Free machinery enabled us to increase production capacity by 400% (think about all those Sheese we can make for you now!)
2014 saw us being approached by the UK’s largest chain of High Street wholefood stores (Holland & Barrett), who now also stock our Sheese. We also developed a whole new range with our –incredibly melty and convenient- Sheese Slices and a new flavour among our Sheese range: the Greek style (which will remind you of a well-known cheese named Feta)!
2016 saw a sharp increase in sales as a result of a new retailer launch, and the “Gary” vegan cheese social media phenomenon going viral on the web
November 2017 saw us extend our Tesco range to 14 products including a spreadable dairy free Goats Cheese, dairy free Cheese with Peppercorns and a Hard Italian style. This also helped Tesco to scoop up the 2017 Healthy Cheese Retailer of the Year award.
Meanwhile, our Sainsbury’s range was extended to include Mature Cheddar slices and Cheddar with Chives.
We also won some more awards ourselves, earning the Vegan Product Developer of the Year 2017 from the Food & Drink Awards, Best Vegan Cheese Alternative UK for our Mature style Cheddar Sheese, and more!
Our Sheese blocks, sliced and grated ranges go completely soya-free. Meanwhile we spread our wings to Australia, where supermarket giant Woolworths starts stocking a range of our Sheese, and we even feature on Australian television!
Back in the UK, Asda now stocks four of our products under their own-brand label, Waitrose carries our Creamy Sheese and Spar (Scotland) offer a selection of Sheese – we are getting out there!