Vegan Cheese Brand Kite Hill’s New CEO: ‘We’re Part of a Plant-Based Movement’

Dairy-free food brand Kite Hill has a new CEO and he’s “not interested” in debating with the dairy industry, according to a report by Food Navigator. The California-based almond milk artisans will now be headed by food industry veteran Rob Leibowitz, who brings more than 30 years of experience in managing major food brands.

Leibowitz shared his vision for Kite Hill, revealing a focus on superior taste rather than wasting time on a “war pitting plant-based versus dairy.”

“I reject the noise associated with this,” he said. Instead, he’s looking to ensure Kite Hill’s dairy-free products speak for themselves and appeal to its loyal customer base, which isn’t just vegans.

Some of that growth has been bumpy, with so much demand for the product, Kite Hill has had to pull back and readjust its growth strategy.

“We’re part of a plant-based movement, and we expanded as fast as we could and frankly doing that we took our eye off the ball,” he said, adding that when the company relaunches its full line, the company wants to “surprise and delight everybody.”

Leibowitz revealed that many of Kite Hill’s customers opt for the plant-based cheese for a number of reasons, including allergies and concerns about sustainability and animal welfare.

The brand and its three founders; vegan chef Tal Ronnen, cheesemaker Monte Casino, and Pat Brown, the Stanford biochemist best known as the founder of Impossible Foods, mimic traditional cheese-making processes by combining an in-house made almond milk with cultures and enzymes and then separating it into solids and liquids. It’s proving to be a winning formula, with Kite Hill recently securing an $18 million investment.

Kite Hill’s success is unsurprising considering the ever-increasing popularity of dairy-free foods. Demand for vegan cheese alone is higher than ever, according to figures from Market Research Future. The report estimated that the worldwide non-dairy cheese market would reach an incredible $3.52 billion in 2023.

Nuts for Cheese, a vegan cheese producer in Ontario, Canada, also recently revealed that the company’s products have been so popular that the company has had to move to a larger kitchen to meet the demand of over 400 suppliers, including health food giant, Whole Foods.

Leader in the vegan cheese market, Daiya Foods, is experiencing similar demand. The Canadian brand will be moving its production to a larger Vancouver-based premises in 2020 to allow the company to grow and strive to hit $1 billion in revenue.

Southern California’s Follow Your Heart, best known for its Vegenaise vegan mayonnaise, has seen a recent explosion in demand for its vegan cheese, which now tops the vegan pizzas at Domino’s Australia locations. And Bay Area Miyoko’s Kitchen has recently expanded both its production facility and its line of products in response to the growing demand for premium vegan cheese.

Image Credit: Kite Hill