Elsevier, Future Foods, Volume 4, December 2021
The global market for plant-based foods intended as alternatives to cheese products is increasing and will reach almost $4 billion by 2024. In this study, an evaluation of the composition, structure and physicochemical properties of four commercial plant-based block-style products was conducted, with results compared with those for Cheddar and processed cheeses. The plant-based products had considerably lower protein contents (0.11–3.00%) compared to the Cheddar and processed cheeses (25.04 and 18.50%, respectively). Analysis of microstructure demonstrated that the plant-based products did not have a continuous protein network, with the fat globules being stabilised by starch and other hydrocolloids. The Cheddar cheese had the highest hardness, firmness and Young's modulus values (126.8, 98.81 N and 953.3 KPa, respectively), with some of the plant-based products showing similar textural properties to the Cheddar cheese. Furthermore, rheological analysis showed that the meltability profiles of the plant-based products differed to those of Cheddar cheese. The differential scanning calorimetry thermograms showed a similar peak at ∼20 °C for all plant-based products, being different from the two peaks displayed by the dairy-based products. This study shows the complexity of the mechanisms behind the physicochemical properties of plant-based block-style alternatives to cheese and the challenges related to them.