Is Vegan Dairy Free? Usually, But These Products are Not!

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Last Update in December 2021! I know what many of you are thinking. “Vegans don’t consume dairy, case closed!” But we’ve entered a new era of food engineering, which is blurring those once distinct lines. Most vegan food products are still dairy-free, but not all. In this post I’ll explain why, and we’ll keep a running list of vegan brands and products that aren’t dairy free, for your quick reference.

When Vegan Isn’t Dairy-Free, a New Era of Engineered Food

Is Vegan Dairy Free? Usually, But These Products are Not!

Vegan diets ban all animal-derived products, which typically includes meat, seafood, dairy, eggs, and bee products, like honey. Animal-derived is the key phrase here. Crafty food scientists have managed to create dairy proteins in the lab without the use of animals in any way. But how?

Milk Proteins without the Cow

Companies are utilizing a few different technologies, but they all involve genetically engineering a non-animal organism (like yeast or plants) to produce dairy proteins. They do so using the genome of a dairy cow, which has been fully mapped, and is readily available. So no animals, or derivatives of animals, are used to produce vegan “dairy.” Nonetheless, the proteins produced are molecularly identical to dairy proteins. This means they could still cause milk allergy reactions and have medical implications for people who have health issues or concerns with milk proteins.

Vegan Dairy is Not Non-GMO

Most of the brands listed below are heavily marketing the idea that the milk proteins are “made in a kitchen, not a lab.” It is true that the products do not contain genetically modified organisms, but they are created from genetically modified organisms. This is why they cannot be certified non-GMO. Last time I checked, microflora don’t naturally produce milk proteins. They might use a natural fermentation process in the production of the proteins, but they first have to genetically modify the microflora used to produce them.

Vegan Brands & Products that are NOT Dairy Free

When I first posted about this new technological development, I honestly didn’t think it was going to be wildly successful. But investment money is pouring into engineered proteins, and new vegan dairy products are steadily popping up. I know – as if finding dairy-free products wasn’t frustrating enough! But I’ll do my best to keep you continuously informed with this guide.

In most cases, these vegan products are lactose-free (always check!). But they are not dairy-free, due to the use of engineered, “bio-identical” dairy proteins. They should always have milk clearly listed in the ingredients or contains statement. Nevertheless, the “animal-free” and “vegan” labels can confuse anyone. We’ve included a sample product or logo image with each brand, to help you spot them at a glance.

Brave Robot Ice Cream

Vegan Dairy Foods that are NOT Dairy Free - understanding this new era of food engineeringThis was one of the first vegan dairy brands to hit the market. They use genetically engineered whey protein from Perfect Day (read more below) to make various ice cream pint flavors. They are sold online and in major grocery stores across the U.S.

Bold Cultr

Vegan Dairy Foods that are NOT Dairy Free - understanding this new era of food engineeringGeneral Mills is now in the vegan dairy game with their new brand, Bold Cultr. This “non-animal” cream cheese alternative, as they call it uses Perfect Day’s genetically engineered whey proteins. They are also working on cheese shreds and slices made with casein proteins.

Brave Robot Cake Mix

Vegan Dairy Foods that are NOT Dairy Free - understanding this new era of food engineeringTheir Climate Here Super Cake Mix is the first application to venture outside of dairy alternatives. It’s “vegan” with no need for eggs, but contains Perfect Day’s genetically engineered whey protein. Unlike the other products on this list, the manufactured whey is used as an egg substitute – you still add oil and liquid.

Graeter’s Perfect Indulgence

Vegan Dairy Foods that are NOT Dairy Free - understanding this new era of food engineeringGraeter’s Ice Cream Shops are popular in the midwest, but they’ve become confusing for dairy-free customers. Their “Perfect Indulgence” line of scoops and pints is made with Perfect Day’s “animal-free,” genetically engineered dairy proteins (read more below).

Ice Age!

When Vegan Isn’t Dairy-Free, a New Era of Engineered FoodIgloo Dessert Bar in Hong Kong partnered with Perfect Day to create Ice Age. It’s a line of vegan dairy ice cream that’s made with their lab-created whey protein. It appears to be available at their pop-up location, and is being delivered to customers throughout Hong Kong. Obviously, this product isn’t a big concern in North America, but we want to keep this list as complete as possible!

Modern Kitchen

Vegan Dairy - Modern Kitchen Cheese contains milk allergenThis the first vegan dairy cheese to hit the market. It was created by The Urgent Company and comes in a few flavors (different colored packaging for each flavor). It is made from genetically engineered whey protein. They do clearly label for milk allergen, but the “animal-free” and “made from plants and flora” are prominent and could still confuse consumers and food service workers. They also promote this product as vegan-friendly.

Mooless

Vegan Dairy Foods that are NOT Dairy Free - understanding this new era of food engineeringA company called Natreve is using Perfect Day’s whey proteins to make a full line of “animal free whey protein” powders. The title appears geared at the fact that cows weren’t involved in production, but don’t let the name fool you, this is dairy protein.

Nick’s Vegan

When Vegan Isn’t Dairy-Free, a New Era of Engineered FoodTheir vegan ice cream line is made with Perfect Day’s genetically engineered whey protein. They started with just three limited edition animal-free flavors, and are now up to five flavors, continuously available to order online. We don’t think they’ve started shipping to stores, yet.

New Culture

When Vegan Isn’t Dairy-Free, a New Era of Engineered FoodAt last check, this vegan cheesemaker wasn’t quite ready to go to market, but they were getting close to releasing a mozzarella. They dance around their process with marketing keywords and child-like phrases, but it appears they are using the same process as Perfect Day, discussed below. It involves genetically modifying yeast or other flora to produce casein, the primary dairy protein in cheese.

Nobell Foods

Vegan Dairy Foods that are NOT Dairy Free - understanding this new era of food engineeringThis producer has received ample funding to recreate the unique genetic code of casein in soybean seeds, to grow plants that have the same dairy caseins found in animal milks. It sounds as if this is, technically, a genetically modified food. They have plans to hit the market with vegan dairy cheese in late 2022 or early 2023.

Nomoo Kids

Vegan Dairy Foods that are NOT Dairy Free - understanding this new era of food engineeringThe name of this brand is even more deceptive, since it plays on the idea of no dairy. In fact, their marketing works hard to distance them from cows. But this product line of kid-focused pouch yogurts and bottled smoothies is made with dairy whey proteins. As the company mentions, the proteins are made through fermentation, not farming. But the organisms are genetically modified first so that they can create dairy milk proteins identical to cow dairy proteins.

Perfect Day

Vegan Dairy Foods that are NOT Dairy Free - understanding this new era of food engineeringThis was the first company to hit the market with lab-created milk proteins. They genetically engineer yeast with DNA to make it produce casein and whey. So technically, the end product is not genetically modified, but it is produced by a genetically modified organism. They originally launched their own ice cream, but shifted gears to supply their proteins to other food manufacturers. They have also launched a vegan dairy milk with their whey proteins (it’s in test marketing at select Starbucks) and they are working with companies to produce vegan dairy yogurt. So keep an eye out for the Perfect Day logo on vegan products.

Real Vegan Cheese

Vegan Dairy Foods that are NOT Dairy Free - understanding this new era of food engineeringThis is a venture by Counter Culture Labs in the California Bay Area. They are using a similar technology to Perfect Day, genetically engineering yeast and other microflora to produce dairy proteins. As their name implies, they are focused on cheese, but they are still in the R&D phase, and don’t have any products to market yet.

Remilk

Vegan Dairy Foods that are NOT Dairy Free - understanding this new era of food engineeringThey haven’t hit the market yet, but are working hard in their Tel Aviv Israel lab to create milk and cheese products from genetically engineered casein proteins that are molecularly identical to cow’s milk casein proteins. They are using mRNA technology. Like Perfect Day’s process, the end product is not genetically modified, but it is created via a process of genetic engineering. They do plan to release products in North America.

Renegade Creamery

When Vegan Isn’t Dairy-Free, a New Era of Engineered FoodAt our time of writing, they weren’t to market yet, but were working on animal-free cheese shreds and slices and cream cheese made with lab created milk proteins. They didn’t specify that type of proteins, but cheeses are usually rich in casein. This brand is a General Mills endeavor.

Discontinued Vegan Dairy Products

A couple products have vanished since our initial post about the not-so perfect day vegan dairy emerged. As mentioned, Perfect Day no longer produces their own line of ice cream. And Smitten Kitchen’s N’ice Cream was discontinued due to “supply issues.”

Please note that we are not passing any judgement about these foods, but simply reporting vegan dairy foods that consumers could easily mistake for dairy-free products. 

Related Reading for Dairy-Free Consumers

What are “May Contain” Allergy Statements and What They Mean for You

Non Dairy vs Dairy Free: Why One May Contain Milk

When Vegan Isn’t Dairy-Free, a New Era of Engineered Food

Vegan Dairy on Restaurant Menus? Why the Desserts Might Not be Safe

For More Dairy-Free Living Guidance, Get Go Dairy Free!

Go Dairy Free 2nd Edition - The Ultimate Guide and Cookbook for Dairy-Free Living with Over 250 Recipes!

About Author

Alisa is the founder of GoDairyFree.org, Food Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living, and the new cookbook, Eat Dairy Free: Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and Sweets. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.

8 Comments

  1. Elizabeth Brion on

    I tried one of these brands a while back, not thinking that if I had terrible reactions to dairy I would also have terrible reactions to something that was genetically identical to it. I only ate two spoons full and my day was thoroughly ruined. I’m glad you’re putting this information out there!

  2. Terri Raleigh on

    This is very frustrating. While I appreciate that many are avoiding dairy because of their personal preferences to eat only vegan products this is an entirely different issue for those that are dairy free because of an allergy. I hope the manufacturers realize the importance of stating that it is not dairy free on the front and in the allergy listings on the back label as this is critical for some.

    • By law, they do still have to state milk allergen on the ingredient statement. Even though it is genetically engineered milk protein, it’s created to be bio-identical, and thus covered under the allergen labeling recommendations. That said, most brands don’t seem to prominently display “contains milk” on the front. I’ve seen it in small or hard to notice spots. I think this might change going forward, as consumers become more confused by these products.

      • Thank you for bringing this forward. I was not aware of these products and my daughter now 30 still has a severe dairy allergy and it is important to keep this information circulating.

  3. Suzanne R Thomas on

    Wow! As if we didn’t have enough labels to read it’s so disappointing to find out that now we have to check ingredients on Vegan products for possible hidden dairy. Thanks for bringing it to our attention as I have to admit that if it says Vegan or has the Vegan logo, most of the time we do not read the label.

    • Seriously disappointing, I agree. Fortunately, it isn’t too many products yet. And we’ll do our best to keep this list updated with all “vegan dairy” brands as they emerge.

    • We should (like I am doing now) try to find books that can help us avoid animal made/or have animal by products in them. I purchased a book already called “ANIMAL INGRIDENTS FROM A to Z (the third edition)”. I got the book from Amazon.com. If you find any books that can help vegans avoid all animal and all it’s by products lets us vegans know about it.

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