Nuts for Cheese i.d.e.a. Fund

Nuts for Cheese brings vegan cheese to everyone

This article was originally published by TechAlliance on April 22, 2024. Read the original article here.

Margaret Coons has been vegan for nearly half of her life. Over that time, she’s tried every vegan cheese available. In the early days, there weren’t very many options on the market, and she found herself craving a truly delicious, creamy, dairy-free cheese experience.  

While working as a Certified Vegan Chef, Coons began experimenting with nuts and seeds to create her own vegan cheeses, which became very popular at the restaurant where she worked. The enthusiasm from restaurant guests encouraged her to start selling at the Western Fair Farmer’s Market, On her first day in May 2015, she sold out.  

It wasn’t long before word of this new vegan cheese spread quickly, and Coons was selling and hand-delivering to 50+ food shops in London and the surrounding area.  

To support growing demand, Coons incorporated Nuts for Cheese in 2016 and hired a team of part-time employees. Then in 2017, she moved production into a 6,000-square-foot manufacturing facility with a team of 10. Coons also listed Nuts for Cheese products in Farm Boy, its first major retailer.  

Growth continued and, by the end of 2019, Nuts for Cheese was available in other major retailers across Canada: Sobeys, Save on Foods, Metro, and Loblaws. Nuts for Cheese has grown by scaling organically at a measured pace. By 2020, Nuts for Cheese was in the U.S. and are now established in retailers such as Sprouts, Whole Foods, Fresh Thyme, and more.  

To complement its growth, Nuts for Cheese needed some guidance and additional funding to meet demand. Through industry contacts, Coons learned that Nuts for Cheese would be a good fit for support through TechAlliance’s connection to the i.d.e.a. FundTM. As a company that is focused on diversity, is 2SLGBTQ+-owned, and makes a sustainable product, Nuts for Cheese was an ideal fit. In less than 24 hours, they submitted and application and ultimately became a recipient of the i.d.e.a. FundTM.  

Supported by a $10-million Government of Canada investment, through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), the i.d.e.a FundTM is led by Boundless Accelerator in partnership with Regional Innovation Centres (RICs) across Ontario: WeTech Alliance, Haltech (now amalgamated with Innovation Factory), Innovation Factory, Innovate Niagara, and TechAlliance of Southwestern Ontario. The program helps high-potential ventures access the tools they need to succeed by providing financial and business advisory supports to develop or redesign products, services, processes and technologies that reduce impacts on the environment and create made-in-Canada solutions. 

TechAlliance has been an excellent partner for Nuts for Cheese, supporting Coons and her team in whatever way that they can. Whether that’s through organizing a plant tour or a sales workshop or assisting in crafting a press release, TechAlliance has been there.  

Throughout their campaign, Manager of Venture Growth Andrew Leest and TechAlliance were there for Coons and her team to answer questions, assess their progress, provide strategic recommendations and referrals, and participate in meetings when needed. The team at TechAlliance was integral in improving brand awareness, fine-tuning the Nuts for Cheese social channels, drumming up more community support, and developing stronger relationships.  
In addition to digital marketing, the program has funded the direct-to-consumer capabilities of its website. So, if you don’t have a Nuts for Cheese retailer in your area, you can now buy online.  

Nuts for Cheese’s US National Sales Manager, Candace Campbell, said what she appreciates about TechAlliance and the i.d.e.a. FundTM is engagement and consistent communication. There is no uncertainty. “We’ve worked with a lot of funding organizations and our experience with TechAlliance stands out as top-tier.” 

Nuts for Cheese has won one of the best places to work in the City of London on multiple occasions, has a great employee retention rate, and pays its workers a certified living wage. Coons wanted to build a culture that brought her workers’ whole selves to work that was reflected in the team environment and the product. And she has.  

According to Andrew Leest, “Nuts for Cheese has planned ambitious milestones throughout their short history, but they have always remained committed to them. Margaret has instituted taking good risks and driving to achieve them. By trusting in their data and investing in consumer relationships, they’ve been successful. And we’re glad to be alongside, supporting where we can.”  

With an engaged and loyal following, Nuts for Cheese is poised for continued expansion and new products. Be on the lookout at your local stores, because as Margaret likes to say, “Gouda stuff is on the way!” 

Did you know? Nuts for Cheese was the winner of the 2016 LiONS LAIR Pitch Competition by Innovation Factory.

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