Austin Central Market boards vegan train with celebrity-backed cheese
There's a vegan cheese in town and it's kind of a big deal. The cheese is from Misha's, a Los Angeles-based company that makes what they claim is the best dairy-free cheese on the market, and it's making its debut at Central Market.
Misha's does a spreadable cheese flavored with herbs and spices. Central Market will carry the following six flavors:
- Lox — dill, capers, carrots
- French Connection — herbs de Provence, grains of paradise, black olives
- Smoked Cheddar — smoked paprika, chipotle
- Sari — sundried tomatoes, garlic, cilantro
- Seven Point Five — jalapeno, habanero, strawberries
- Black Truffle — black truffle, shallots
Previously, Misha's was available only on the West Coast and online. The new partnership with Central Market brings Misha's to Texas' seven top cities, including Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, Southlake, and Plano. Five of those cities have CultureMap bureaus, so Misha's is on to something.
Central Market has been less quick to embrace vegan foods than other chains like Sprouts and Kroger's. But Misha's possesses extra assets: They're Black-owned and have a celebrity backing buzz from a group that includes Jay-Z and NBA All-Star Chris Paul.
Misha's cheese is made from cashew and almond milk, the most common ingredients used to make vegan cheese. And the cheese is spreadable, versus firm. Spreadable vegan cheese is far easier to make than firm vegan cheese — a lesson Misha's cofounders learned early in the game, as they told medium:
The first product we launched was an aged, sliceable cheese. It was fairly complicated to produce, and package and it was a bit volatile. One night, right as we were preparing for the next day's farmers market, it got the best of us. Our refrigerators failed and the cheese didn't set up properly. Ian and I looked at each other nearly defeated… all that time, all that effort, all that money… and then, almost in unison we said 'let's sell it as spreadable cheese!' Less time, less energy, cheaper to make and package."
Founders chef Ian Martin and Aaron Bullock, who began operating in 2018, have an unusual background for cheesemakers: They were previously in the music and entertainment industry. But Martin had begun exploring raw vegan cooking, and worked with two well-known raw vegan names: Matthew Kenny and Juliano's Planet Raw. Bullock, meanwhile, had an interest in naturopathic medicine and had opened a clinic.
They've earned backing by Marcy Venture Partners: Jay Brown and Jay-Z, Pendulum Holdings: Robbie Robinson, Lisa Shamus, and 11-time NBA All-Star Chris Paul, and hope to reimagine the dairy aisle not only with their non-dairy cheese, but also other products such as milk, butter, and yogurt.
Emphasizing the gourmet/health vibe seems to make vegan food easier for foodies to swallow than the whole inconvenient "humane concern for animals" angle. Misha's is also certified and licensed in California as a Dairy Company, which allows them to legally use the word "Cheese."
Assets such as these have earned them attention on food websites such as Food 52 — and now a spot on the shelves of Central Market's 10 stores.
"With Austin, Houston and Dallas all consistently named most friendly for plant-based consumers, expanding into Texas is a perfect next move for Misha’s," Bullock says in a release. "We're a purpose-driven and community-focused company that believes in spreading kindness and committed to lifting as we climb. We're proud to join hands with the great people of Texas."