The vegan consumer market has been taken by storm in recent months, with the overhaul of Alpro, the US – and hopefully soon to be UK’s – release of Quorn’s Vegan Burger, MooFree’s mouth-watering new range of chocolate bars, Swedish Glace’s seasonable frozen cheesecakes and the release of the first British-made and ready-to-eat vegan pizza from Redwood’s.
In fact, with such a sumptuous array of topical and innovative new products to sample, I have taken it upon myself to review a handful of the ones that immediately catch the eye and initiate the salivation – most typical of the notorious fictional character, Homer Simpson.
Food Heaven is a fairly new company that produces a range of dairy free desserts. Launched in the United Kingdom by Fayrefield Foods (Distributor and brand management for Ingman’s Swedish Glace), this unique little company is set to go from strength to strength. Alas, they have made a quiet entrance onto the retail market and are probably deserving of a little more acclaim than they have otherwise so far received.
Labelled as being “in association with Swedish Glace”, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one of the Food Heaven products. I saw this ‘link’ as a guarantee of quality and therefore held only the highest expectations. The brand is specifically aimed at the Free From market; Dairy Free, Egg Free, Wheat Free and Gluten Free and at the retail price of £3.40, these desserts certainly don’t break the bank. I decided to purchase just one of the flavours in order to gauge my potential liking for any of their other products. Currently, just two desserts are on the market, with another two coming soon. These will include a Mango Cheesecake and a Dairy Free Tiramisu.
As I am not overly fond of Lemon-flavoured desserts, I decided to purchase the Summer Berry Cheesecake. That said, their Sicilian Lemon Cheesecake was actually a winner at the Free From Food Awards 2012, beating similar yet more established brands such as Mamma Cucina.
The cheesecake was a lot shallower than I expected and wasn’t overly impressive upon appearance. As directed, I left the dessert to defrost for approximately an hour before digging in. The base had a lovely ‘buttery’ crumb, which made a nice change from the ‘soggy’ pastry most typical of pre-frozen, gluten-free foods. The summer berry topping had a more ice-cream like consistency which didn’t come as a much of a surprise, given it’s affiliation with non-dairy ice cream makers, Swedish Glace. My initial impression was that the berry-flavour tasted somewhat artificial, but the dessert was otherwise pleasantly sweetened with an exceptionally creamy consistency which really complimented the ‘buttery’ base.
If anything, I would recommend serving a slice of this alongside a mound of fresh berries and perhaps a spoonful of blackcurrant compote. Having tried this, I would definitely purchase it again for an easy dessert to have with guests but for now I am just eagerly anticipating the release of their Dairy Free Tiramisu.
I’m not going to waffle on too much about Alpro. Their new milks and yogurts have been on our shelves a while now, and they seem to have settled in nicely. I see vegans and non-vegans alike topping up their trolleys with a several cartons every week and on some occasions, I have even seen people swigging a few mouthfuls as they exit the supermarket. Alpro have certainly ‘nailed it’ with these products and if you have yet to try the Hazelnut or Almond milks, then all I can say is get them, try them – you’ll love them! The almond milk has a more delicate flavour by comparison to the hazelnut milk and is more easily interchangeable with the standard soya/rice milks. It can be used on cereal, in cooking and in tea with good results, whereas the hazelnut milk is more akin to a milkshake and whilst it may work with your morning bowl of Cheerios; I certainly wouldn’t advise using it in your daily brew. That said, both milks are low-calorie and provide an adequate amount of calcium and vitamins. The Hazelnut, in particular, is a beautifully indulgent and refreshing beverage to enjoy at any time of day.
Third and finally…
I have to be honest, when Redwood’s proposed their intention to release a vegan pizza in late 2011, it conjured up the idea of a large, deep pan, four ‘cheese’, American-style pizza. I even let my imagination run away with itself in this instance; I thought that perhaps, we might even be in store for a stuffed crust or “cheesey bites” pizza…
Obviously, in this case, my ideas were a bit too overzealous for Redwood’s and I allowed myself to fabricate something that is clearly too ahead of its time. I was brought back to reality, over half a year after their little teaser, to find myself presented with a product that is more comparable to half of a bagel topped with a miserly scattering of Cheezly.
Disappointing was an understatement!
Nevertheless, I don’t believe you can ever judge a book by its cover and so I swooped up both available varieties (the ‘Meatless Feast’ and the ‘Cheezly and Tomato’) and I made my way to the till.
Taking off the packaging, the pizza didn’t look anywhere near as bad as I thought. That said, I’ve never thought much of Redwood’s packaging designs; they tend to look dated, cheap and not overly appealing. Anyway, ten minutes in the oven and it was good to go. The tomato base is the first thing I can rave about. If anything, the pizza becomes a sure winner on that account. It has a slightly sweet, perfectly seasoned and unique taste. The Cheezly is just as you would expect it to be, however it has been cut and grated to give an evenly covered and nicely melted result. Unfortunately however, the crust (like every other shop-bought, frozen pizza) lets it down. As with all the ready-made pizzas I have ever tasted, the crust was always hard and solid around the edges – being somewhat akin to stale bread. That’s not a specific gripe about Redwoods, but for all (as I remember) shop-bought pizzas on the market.
No-one has ever managed to get it right!
In general, I think it’s great that we have vegan pizza on the market as a more convenient, accessible and easy meal. It’s not something I’d generally suggest for someone wanting a quality pizza, but for something quick and easy, the basics are there. Following in the footsteps of Redwood, Mama Cucina were right behind with their ‘free from’ pizza. They go a step further with their gluten-free crust which is fantastic for vegans who may struggle with an intolerance. I’ll certainly be picking one up soon enough, but simply for comparative analysis.
Of all the ready-made vegan pizzas I have tried thus far, there’s not one that sticks out over and above the rest. I am probably being a lot more critical than I need to be, but when it comes to pizza, I look for the best! German brand, Natural Cool have made a great attempt with their ‘Peperoni’ pizza and American brand, Amy’s are certainly commendable with their ‘Roasted Vegetable’ pizza. Alas, all are guilty of the poor crust. The best thing about Redwood’s bringing their own product to the market is that vegan pizza is now more accessible in Britain.
It must seem like I’ve missed some obvious new products here; Tesco’s Free From range for one – But when I said the market has been taken by storm, it was no understatement! With that in mind, I’m going to add a shameless ‘plug’ to join Vegan Kid on Facebook. The reviews are a little brief and the photos aren’t perfectly ‘polished’ but you sure don’t want to miss out on the ad-hoc ramblings and reviews!