Surely each of us has already noticed it in ourselves: We eat differently than a few years ago. Plant-based nutrition is becoming increasingly popular, for very different reasons. The focus is on health, variety, and sustainability, aspects that people associate with plant-based products. Nevertheless, hardly anyone wants to do
without one thing: delicious cheese. And that’s exactly what no one needs to do without anymore, because delicious plant-based alternatives to cheese are available from E.V.A. GmbH, a young company from the Allgäu region of Germany.
The organization is a market leader in its segment and develops, produces, and markets purely plant-based cheese alternatives. Currently, the company offers various alternatives to cream cheese, sliced cheese, grated cheese, parmesan, shepherd’s cheese, brand new grill cheese, and curd cheese.
Even though E.V.A. GmbH is a part of the Hochland group, it consciously got separated from its parent company to allow the development of new products, some of which were unusual for a dairy company.
Curious about new things
E.V.A. GmbH is currently led by Managing Director Caroline Zimmer, an ambitious woman who loves challenges and is always curious about new things. Originally from Northern Germany, Caroline has been at home in Allgäu for decades. She has loved cheese and all other dairy products since her childhood. Even at that point in time, she was fascinated by the fact that a cow eats grass and then turns it into something as good as milk. Caroline states, “Since I’m also interested in natural sciences and find topics like microbiology and process technology exciting, the decision to become a dairy engineer was the right one.”
After graduating from college, Caroline wanted to start an apprenticeship. However, companies at that point of time were not interested in hiring women because of the huge and heavy milk cans that one needed to carry.
Caroline says, “I’m still enthusiastic about this craft, which has such a long tradition and to which we owe such wonderful products.”
In addition to her degrees as a dairy and industrial engineer, Caroline is a trained alternative practitioner, Qigong teacher, and a devoted follower of Daoism. Her education and training in traditional Chinese medicine have shaped her way of thinking.
Regarding the customers, Caroline and her team focus on two directions; E.V.A. GmbH’s primary customers are those retailers who keep the product on their refrigerated shelves. However, the organization makes its products for end customers, so the team convinces both retailers and end customers to buy their products. And for all these, the taste of a product plays a critical role because people only buy a food product when it tastes good.
As the leader of the organization, Caroline takes everyone’s needs into account and ensures that E.V.A. introduces products that consumers love and have the potential to perform successfully in the trade. The organization prefers to focus on the class instead of mass.
Creating the Perfect Substitute of Cheese
Caroline says, “To get ahead, you undoubtedly need your own drive, and you have to be convinced of what you are doing. But the environment is also very important.” In professional terms, she was in very good hands at the parent company of E.V.A. GmbH, Hochland, first in marketing and then as the Head of Business Development/Innovation Management. In this role, her team established an entirely new innovation process based on her holistic approach to thinking and identifying opportunities in various segments, which eventually translated into concrete products. Simply V is one such product; everyone at Hochland recognized its potential very early and gave Caroline and her team the confidence to turn it into something huge.
Developing a cheese alternative that is barely different from cheese was a challenging task. The list of the ingredients had to be manageable. However, the primary criteria were the taste. Simply V was supposed to taste far better than any cheese alternatives available.
On the other hand, the technology for manufacturing the product was another challenge. The team at E.V.A. developed their first product, a spreadable cheese by Simply V. After the team was finally satisfied with the recipe, it had to create a new manufacturing process to produce the product on a large scale.
Initially, distribution was also a challenge. Caroline and her team weren’t just making Simply V for vegans but for the growing number of flexitarians. To do that, products had to be on the refrigerated shelves of regular grocery stores. It was a very ambitious goal, as 7 years ago, finding a shelf with vegan and vegetarian products in the supermarket was very hard.
Since its inception in 2015, Simply V has won at least one award every year. Last year Simply V Genießerscheiben Herzhaft Nussig received the Vegan Food Award 2021 and the Best Seller of the Year 2021 by the trade magazine Rundschau für den Lebensmittelhandel. Also, the new Simply V Grill & Pfannengenuss Tomato Oregano have recently won the Vegan Food Award 2022 from PETA.
On the other hand, The Simply V Hirtengenuss received the Superior Taste Award 2022 with two stars. While the Simply V Streichgenuss Gurke & Knoblauch Ty Tzatziki and the Simply V Grill & Pfannengenuss Mediterrane Kräuter was recognized by the Superior Taste Award 2022, with one star.
Picture of the Future
Caroline states, “We are the market leader in Germany and want to remain so. At the same time, we know that cheese alternatives are a growth market that has awakened many desires.”
Currently, the market is witnessing a lot of movement, but E.V.A. GmbH is confident that it offers retailers an attractive portfolio of products that consumers love. “We are currently working on further product innovations, which I am already very much looking forward to launching.”- states Caroline, without revealing anything more.
“Additionally, the organization hopes to grow not only in Germany but also in Europe. Currently, E.V.A. GmbH’s products are available in seven European nations intending to expand this further.”
Advice for Young Female Entrepreneurs
As the Managing Director of E.V.A. GmbH, Caroline states, “You should believe in yourself and be convinced of what you are doing. You need courage, stamina, and healthy self-confidence because it’s not always easy to assert yourself in a world still dominated by men. But it’s worth it. Be a team player and also rely on the skills of others.”