Bel Brands USA, Chicago, expanded its line of Nurishh plant-based products this spring with two new formats – cubes and cream cheese style. The line already offered shreds and slices. The company also introduced the Babybel Plant-Based line to further diversify its offerings and meet a need in the market for snack cheese choices, according to Jean Michel dos Remedios, sourcing and supplier development senior director.

Innovation often requires upgraded equipment, so the company invested in new production lines dedicated to the plant-based cheese formula when it developed Babybel Plant-Based.

“It took months to not only develop and test this equipment, but to land on a recipe that mimics the soft, smooth and creamy texture of Mini Babybel Original,” dos Remedios said.

He noted average innovation lead times are between 18 to 24 months to bring a new product from initial concept to store shelves, with Babybel Plant-Based hitting shelves a few years after first developing the idea.

Plant-based innovation will continue as the company also plans to launch The Laughing Cow Plant-Based products in 2023.

“Consumers are demanding more inclusive offerings to not only cater to all diets and restrictions, but also to offer a flexitarian approach,” dos Remedios said. “We expect this diversity in offerings will continue to be a mainstay in future innovations.”

Additionally, the company introduced culinary-inspired products from its Boursin brand – Boursin Bites Garlic & Fine Herbs and Boursin Cooking Cream Garlic & Fine Herbs.

Keeping up with consumer recipe discussions on social media and even offering some of its own versions of recipes was integral to the development of the cream product, dos Remedios said. In addition to social media as being a driver of ideas, dos Remedios said at-home cooking and entertaining is driving trends, and the company has even added a hosting resource on its Boursin website.

Bel Group, the parent company of Bel Brands USA, recently announced it is developing a line of cheese products that incorporate a cultured protein from Superbrewed Food to further efforts in biomass fermentation. The protein is made from microflora found in nature that convert plant fibers and contains all nine essential amino acids.