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Extra Schmear, Please! Vegan Cream Cheese Alternatives Make for Happy Bagels. Major brands as well as independent newcomers alike are putting new plant-based, dairy-free cream cheeses, made from nuts, seeds, and soy, on the table.

By Brian Kateman Edited by Frances Dodds

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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There's really nothing that compares to the perfectly simple, anytime meal of a quality bagel with cream cheese. And if you've spent time in New York, the undeniable bagel capital of the world, you've probably already been spoiled by an abundance of vegan cream cheese. Tofutti has been making their classic soy-based, non-dairy cream cheese for ages, and virtually every other bagel shop has carried it for decades, catering to their lactose intolerant clientele.

But despite having a reliable standby, the vegan cream cheese market hasn't remained stagnant — certainly not as of late. And from a business standpoint, it makes sense. Considering that an estimated 65% of the world's population is some degree of lactose intolerant, and the continued growth of similar products, it's an exciting category ripe for innovation. The dairy alternative market, globally, is already worth $21.4 billion and is expected to grow to $40.6 by 2026.

There's a rising wave of people eating fewer animal products, and with the increased availability of dairy-alternative products, people with lactose intolerance aren't just accepting an inevitable stomach ache anymore. Consumers today want it all — taste, nutrition, and ethics — and thanks to some disruptive brands, they can have it.

Related: Pour The Vegan Milk: Breakfast Cereals Pivot To Plant-Based, High-Protein, Low-Sugar Options

Sweet creams are made of cheese

If you're allergic to soy, or just prefer to avoid it, two other well-established vegan brands sell soy-free cream cheese. Daiya makes a "cream cheeze" that's soy-free, made with coconut and tapioca. It comes in a variety of flavors, including strawberry, chive and onion, garden vegetable, and of course, plain.

Follow Your Heart, another long-standing company making vegan staples, has recently updated their cream cheese recipe to be soy-free, as well. FYH's cream cheese is made from a base of coconut oil and faba bean protein, among other ingredients, making it a safe choice for those with soy, gluten, and of course dairy sensitivities.

The California company Miyoko's Creamery, known for their highly sought-after cultured vegan cheeses and other products, of course makes a cream cheese alternative as well. Theirs is primarily cashew-based, and likely to impress purists with its just five ingredients (cashews, water, coconut cream, sea salt, and cultures). In addition to plain, they sell a scallion cream cheese and a fish-free vegan lox flavor as well — for all your classic brunch needs.

Cashew Reserve also makes a line of cream cheese alternatives made from, you guessed it, cashews. Their cream cheese line, called The Cultured Kitchen, includes nothing but cashews, cultures, and seasonings — no fillers, no thickeners, no artificial preservatives. This young NorCal brand, which uses traditional dairy techniques like aging for its cow-free cheese products, is one to watch.

If cashews aren't your thing, perhaps newcomer brand Spero will be the one for you. Their all-vegan cream cheeses are made from a base of sunflower seeds and just a few other ingredients, including probiotic cultures. According to the brand, sunflower seeds have an advantage over common dairy alternatives, like cashews and almonds, because sunflowers have less of an environmental impact. And to top it all off, Spero's cream cheese comes in a wide variety of culinary flavors, from pumpkin to spicy red pepper.

Related: A Cup Of Ambition: Coffee Products Pour Into the Plant-Based Sector

Vegan cream cheese goes global

And all of this cream cheese reinvention isn't just happening stateside. Dutch brand Willicroft, known for using modern ingredients to make delicious vegan cheeses in traditional European styles, offers cream cheese in their product line as well. Made from tofu and coconut oil, among other ingredients, their "This is not cream cheese" cream cheeses come in classic, dill, and jalapeño. Willicroft's founder, Brad Vanstone, has spoken publicly about how the Netherlands' open-minded attitude towards vegan food, even from non-vegans, has contributed to the brand's early success.

Whether you're eating your bagel toasted or fresh, in New York or Amsterdam, you no longer have to forego cream cheese because of dietary restrictions. Flexitarians and vegans and everyone in-between, including those with certain allergies, now have an array of schmears – in an even wider array of flavors – to choose from. And if vegan cream cheese continues to grow the way the rest of the dairy alternative market has, we're likely to see even more.

Related: Thinking Outside the Box: How Vegan and Vegetarian Brands Are Reinventing Frozen Pizza

Brian Kateman

Co-Founder and President of the Reducetarian Foundation

Brian Kateman is a co-founder of the Reducetarian Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing the consumption of animal products. He is the author of Meat Me Halfway — inspired by a documentary of the same name — and the editor of The Reducetarian Cookbook and The Reducetarian Solution.

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