PlanetDairy makes great-tasting hybrid cheese with a 40% reduced climate footprint

PlanetDairy Audu -40% climate footprint

“But cheese though”, many sigh in despair. PlanetDairy is here to remove the but and the despair, granting us Audu, a cheese experience minus 40% of the emissions. Amen.

Already in more than 1,000 retail stores in Denmark and on its way into the Swedish and German markets, PlanetDairy was formed two years ago by executives with combined decades of experience in FMCG who exchanged corporate life for innovation. And while transitioning an innovation to the mainstream is a quest, PlanetDairy approaches it with the best conditions for success: Something we know plus something new. Audu is a hybrid dairy product, a combination of dairy and plants, with the full cheese experience and 40% reduced emissions. Audu hit the Danish grocery store shelves in the spring of 2023 and was introduced to consumers with blind testing with a side of climate benefits.

CarbonCloud spoke with Jesper Colding, Co-Founder, Chair, and Commercial Lead at PlanetDairy, to share insights on creating a cutting-edge product with an optimal climate impact and go-to-market strategy.

The best of both worlds

Articulating many years of experience in the food industry and the dairy space in particular, Jesper unravels a keen understanding of the market, the role of sustainability and the development of both the plant-based and the dairy world. It is these insights that informed the creation of Planet Dairy and its path to success.

Articulating many years of experience in the food industry and the dairy space in particular, Jesper unravels a keen understanding of the market, the role of sustainability and the development of both the plant-based and the dairy world. It is these insights that informed the creation of Planet Dairy and its path to success.

Jesper Colding, Co-Founder, Chair, and Commercial Lead at PlanetDairy
Few years ago, the expectations from the plant-based space were vast. Today, the market is mature enough to realize that delivering these expectations won’t be that easy.
The mainstream consumer is not attracted to a plant proposition just because it's a plant or just because it's better for the planet. The people who changed their lifestyle based on these value propositions are committed but in the large scheme it is still an alternative lifestyle. In the current way plant-based products are proposed, most mainstream consumers, will be skeptical about something that historically isn’t plant-based. Food culture is extremely strong and profoundly grounded in culture so introducing merely the sustainability point of view as a counterproposal isn’t enough yet.

Indeed, while certain subcategories offer a plant-based experience almost on par with their animal-based counterparts, alternatives to cheese are a consistent challenge in the space. On the other hand, the dairy space has valid and significant challenges holding up the “better for the planet” value proposition.

All professional dairy players are feeling increased urgency of greenhouse gas emissions. From a CSR standpoint, including the environmental footprint in reports is becoming more and more sophisticated. They want to know their impact and they want to reduce but they don't have an array of options besides come into the plant-based space or shrinking the category which is not going to happen. And to be frank, the established industry is rapidly doing everything that needs to happen at every possible level in that realm on the farming and processing side.

What makes Planet Dairy stand out? A different mindset and approach combining and uniting the best of the two worlds:

Our proposition is to develop a dairy aisle, where the taste and functionality is as good as today, the price is competitive –which has previously been a challenge for the plant-based category– the nutritional profile is good and then, almost as a side benefit you get improved sustainability impact and CO2 savings. When consumers look at our product, we strive to inspire confidence that it will make you as happy as the product you have been using. We come in as a stepping-stone where it doesn't have to be the one or the other, we can combine things. I think it is the right time in the market for our hybrid approach.

A market ready for hybrid

Since Audu launched in April, it marked its presence in the first retail stores in Denmark and is steadily increasing it. Planet Dairy is on a parallel expansion journey in other European markets. We ask Jesper about the retail launch, a usually monumental task for food companies, and he enthusiastically responds:

It’s been good! We had a retail meeting recently that exceeded our expectations. Our proposition has resonated with a lot of retailers and the consumers we have presented it to.

Jesper is quick at bringing our focus back to what matters as he states, “at the end of the day, consumers will decide”. And curious we are! How did the consumers respond?

We were at one retail store in Denmark for the entire June presenting the product with a dual placement and weekend demos at a slightly reduced price and we were the market leader within the category during these four weeks.

During this process, Planet Dairy found proof of concept in just one month. Jesper continues.

We integrated the product in a recipe, in the context of their habits. Then we told consumers “What you're tasting right now is half-dairy and half-plants. We've done that because we want to give you the good taste of the cheese, but we also want to give reduced CO2”. The consumer response was “It tastes good, the price is right, the concept is convincing and on top of that, there’s CO2 savings – why wouldn’t I take this?
PlanetDairy founders

Building the value proposition of emissions reduction

We know for a fact though that PlanetDairy’s investigation into CO2 savings started way before the launch of their product. We hand the storytelling to Jesper who tells us how the company went about to form the “same taste, -40% emissions” value prop. The stakeholders were multiple and the needs were clear:

When we concluded on the hybrid –plants and dairy– approach, it was clear to us that we had to develop a benefit around CO2 reductions from a consumer angle first. We needed to make sure that the plants we choose had a sustainability impact in formulation, in processing, in route-to-market that is significant enough to build a clear benefit around. Beyond that we had to present climate impact results that the consumer would trust and that regulatory approval bodies would recognize as a credible calculation.
So, we had 4 needs. 1) We needed to learn about climate impact. We are not LCA experts and there are several ways of conducting an LCA, where you can get different results with the same input so our learning had to be robust. 2) We needed to verify and document our claims, 3) we needed to present it in a way that is available to and approachable for consumers. Lastly, all this had to be done in a practical and economical way.

How did Planet Dairy choose CarbonCloud to support their value prop – and did it do the trick? Jesper concludes:

We looked at what large plant-based players were doing and discovered CarbonCloud. We investigated, did our due diligence, and CarbonCloud checked all the boxes. After we got our results and did the comparison, we did a compliance preassessment with the Danish ombudsman and we were cleared so we had everything we could in terms of pre-market assurance to go to market with the claim.
PlanetDairy's Audu saves 40% emissions compared to conventional cheese

All eyes on Audu

The outcome of all this work? A company already making waves in the Danish market, and a product that offers the selected best from two categories, plus one treat: 40% reduced emissions. And Planet Dairy is such a clear consolidation of a climate-smart product, which comes a treat of its own: The eyes and ears of the food industry. So we asked Jesper to address them. His words to the industry echo a sober mindset and a profound experience in business, in food, in the commercial domain.

The one thing we’re trying very hard is to not blame or shame; to not say “it’s either-or”; to not say that we are better than the established industry – because the established industry is another realm doing everything they can to manage their emissions. Planet Dairy is coming at another level that also has a place. But if the different realms start arguing among themselves, then we are wasting everybody's time. Let’s all concentrate on what we can do, do our best in that while following the rules and keeping consumers informed and we all win.