Inspired by classics, JULIENNE BRUNO uses complex and innovative techniques by a team of international chefs to create and produce familiar but new products, with beautifully simple flavours, using only plant-based ingredients. We chatted to founder Axel Katalan about the brand’s dairy-free cheeses inspired by the classics, and how the company are offering a different perspective on plant-based food.

How do you market your brand to change perceptions about vegan cheese?

By aiming to make the vegan prefix obsolete. We are working on creating great products that anyone who loves good food will enjoy. Products that chefs at restaurants actually want to use because it elevates the dish as opposed to “visually working” but due to taste drastically downgrading the dish to the point that some chefs recommend buying the pizza without vegan cheese as it tastes better.

We made a few important decisions in the early days of development, one of them being not using any additives or preservatives to make the cheese “stretch”. I am sure there are companies out there which will add these to the recipe in order to increase shelf life and get the desired “cheese pull” when heated, but those are not ingredients that we’d be comfortable serving our own children and family. That’s why when you look at what’s in the market, the majority are flavoured hard blocks of gel. Our products are freshly made in batches each week. We’re proud to say that JULIENNE BRUNO has created the first generation of fresh dairy-free cheeses.

How do you achieve the texture in the Stracciatella?

Our Superstraccia is quickly becoming an all-time favourite! We’ve created a bespoke system that uses a mix of fermentation, as well as heating and cooling of the product to create the creamy curdled mix that is so versatile to use.

Any plans to extend the range?

Collection 01 saw JULIENNE BRUNO launch three delicate and creamy dairy-free cheeses. We do have a couple of additions to make to the collection which we’re hoping to launch in the few months. We’ll announce these first to our Instagram community so be sure to give us a follow! Once we’ve expanded Collection 01, we’ll turn our focus back to new product development in all other areas of the supermarket, from frozen to chilled and ambient. Our ambition is to build a multi-portfolio food business, to the size of Nestle, whilst keeping true to two fundamental ethos. For the products to be naturally plant-based and sustainable, and of course, for it to taste good too!

What’s the feedback from customers so far? Is there a clear favourite?

It’s interesting because every time we think “ah this is the favourite”, we receive a wave of positive feedback for another in the collection. The Burrella seems to be in the lead at the moment; there really is nothing like it in the market. We are the first to create such a delicate, creamy and fresh product that can be enjoyed simply on its own or on a salad. It also won an award back in December for the best dairy-free cheese in the UK by Quality Food Awards!

How long did the recipe process take to create a cheese you were truly happy with?

It took two and a half years to develop the recipes in this range. Our development was a very iterative process. We’ve come a long way and it’s the result of the dedication and hardwork of everyone involved.

How do you differ from vegan cheeses on the market?

Our products are fermented, which means they are fresh cheese. They are not a “vegan” version of their dairy counterparts, but instead, they are inspired by the classics. Allow me to explain: We chose to call the product Burrella because it is not a Vegan Burrata. A burrata has strong cultural connections, history, provenance and a whole (super passionate) country that loves and deeply cares about what the product represents. Going and calling something a vegan burrata would be inappropriate, not just to the heritage but also to the new product that has been created. That’s why we take inspiration from a burrata but also make it our own as a Burrella. The delicate texture, the bite, the creaminess and moisture content of a burrella is exactly what a burrella is supposed to be like. From a customer behaviour angle, a few years down the line, we hope to have created a world in which people say “let’s get a burrella” instead of a “let’s get a vegan burrata”.

The philosophy behind this came from one of the first product development workshops we did where two sentences came about that anchored our decision-making: Don’t imitate, create. Don’t compare, enjoy.

What’s your favourite from the range?

As a parent would say, they are all my favourites! I use CremattaTM the most at home because it is so versatile. I use it in pasta sauces and sandwiches mainly, but my recent favourite has become making a lovely creamy tiramisu with it! If you’d like to try making it, we have the full recipe on our website here.

Where do you see vegan eating going in the next year or so?

What we’ve seen is large corporate companies launching vegan products at speed to meet the growing demand from both retailers and the public. This has resulted in (in my opinion) products that don’t capture the hearts of the consumers, which usually results in the product being tried only once and a lack of brand and product loyalty.

As smaller, independent producers like us emerge, we are seeing a second wave of customer curiosity coming and they are excited to try something that is naturally plant-based backed by the taste credentials they desire. Having the nod from well-known, talented chefs is what really sets us apart and what I believe is going to really propagate the aspirational desire for home cooks to experiment and create new dishes with familiar yet new products.

For further information on JULIENNE BRUNO, see here