It’s official! We’ve happily welcomed Kite Hill to our Whole30 Approved family. Of course, Kite Hill isn’t at all new to Whole30’ers, or me. I’ve been a fan and user of their products for many years, and love nothing more than swiping, smearing, and slathering a layer of their delicious flavors over my Whole30 meals, veggies, and most recently, meat sticks. (Don’t knock it until you try it.) Adding our Whole30 Approved seal to their line of dairy-free cream cheese and ricotta was an exciting moment for all of us on the Whole30 HQ team.
However, I’m certain many of you are asking, “Why are you promoting a cheese replacement as Whole30 Approved? Doesn’t that fall under the Pancake Rule? And since Kite Hill has been on the Whole30 scene for many years… why now?”
I’m here to answer all of these questions, and give you a peek into how Whole30 HQ thinks about the program, the rules, and our recommendations, including who we choose to elevate as Whole30 Approved partners.
I first connected with Kite Hill at the trade show Expo West in March 2017. While their products weren’t yet well-known within the Whole30 community, I was immediately impressed with the taste, texture, and ingredient panel, and knew they were a technical fit for the program rules. But I had a lot of doubts about how their products would be used, and whether they had a role in a healthy Whole30 reset. We agreed to stay in touch, but at the time, I told them I’d have to think a bit more about how or if their products were a good fit for Whole30.
When their marketing director reached out in 2018 to inquire about a potential partnership, I still wasn’t convinced their products were right for our program. I still hadn’t seen much chatter about Kite Hill products in the Whole30 forum or on social media, but I was afraid once they grew more popular, trouble would brew. Here is how I responded:
In a 2016 social media survey, a surprising number of Whole30’ers said the food they comfort themselves with the most when they’re not on the program is cheese. Because cheese is so often a crave-worthy comfort food, and because the program is designed to help people break unhealthy attachments and emotional relationships with food, we’ve decided not to bring any cheese recreations into our official Whole30 Approved program. As we’ve learned, a Whole30 Approved endorsement is often seen in the community as carte blanche to enjoy the food or beverage without thinking critically about whether that item is appropriate for their Whole30.
Note, nut cheeses and dips ARE still (compatible) on the program, with a strong caveat that these should be used with caution, especially if you know you rely on cheese as a comfort or stress-relieving food, OR if cheese is a trigger for other food cravings (like wine or crackers).
If we ever decide to change our stance and bring this category into our partnership, Kite Hill is my absolute first choice to work with, so I’ll certainly get in touch.
They understood our position, and we agreed to stay in touch. Over the next few years, the Whole30 team made it clear across all of our messaging that while homemade “cashew crema,” unsweetened coconut yogurt, and almond milk “cream cheese” were technically compatible with the Whole30, these products could easily become “food with no brakes,” and to consume with caution.
Then, we waited and watched… and what we found over the next few years surprised me (in the best way possible).
Cream “cheese” and the Whole30
Because so many people reported missing cheese on the program, and because these cheese recreations were designed to mimic the texture and taste of the real deal, I fully expected Whole30’ers to struggle with the inclusion of these products. I imagined them mindlessly dipping or eating a whole container at a time, coming out of the program with an even stronger attachment to cheese than when they entered. But… that didn’t happen.
Maybe it’s because it’s way less fun to consume any form of “cheese” when you’re not eating it with wine and crackers, melting it over tortilla chips, or slathering it on a bagel. Maybe it’s because pairing it with a burger, or dipping raw vegetables, or adding a thin layer to your eggplant lasagna provides enough satiety that you don’t want to eat the whole container.
For whatever reason, over the last few years, we’ve observed Whole30’ers using Kite Hill products exactly as I hoped they would; to add texture to a well-balanced meal, to bring creaminess to an appetizer, to provide a hint of tang or punch of flavor to a Whole30 recipe.
It turns out Kite Hill wasn’t food without brakes–it proved a valued option to add flavor, texture, and deliciousness to your healthy Whole30 meal. And for those who discovered during reintroduction that dairy wasn’t their friend, Kite Hill became the way to enjoy Food Freedom favorites like yogurt bowls or ravioli without the negative side effects.
Fast-forward to 2021
The Whole30 program has always been committed to changing its stance when provided with new information–and it seemed as though we had some new and potentially impactful information to share with the HQ team and the community. We gathered internally to discuss what this meant for the Whole30 Approved program, and decided since the risk of using these products in an unhealthy way had proven so low, and the benefits of added variety and more plant-based options was so high, we needed to enact a change.
And that’s when I emailed Kite Hill, exactly as I said I would back in 2018. “We changed our minds,” I wrote, “and we’d love to re-open the conversation about partnership.” The rest is history! Kite Hill officially launched as our exclusive Whole30 Approved partner in December 2021, with their line of Dairy-Free Cream Cheeses (in four delicious flavors) and Almond Milk Ricotta.
While nut-based “cheese” products with compatible ingredients have always been allowed on the Whole30, elevating this brand to Whole30 Approved status does add another level of endorsement for our community. The partnership says that we greatly value the many benefits that Kite Hill products bring to our community, and believe they are a great addition to your balanced Whole30 meals, snacks, or special occasion fare. (Kite Hill Ricotta-stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates are one of my favorite party appetizers.)
We’re thrilled to welcome Kite Hill to our Whole30 Approved family, and excited to introduce the Whole30 community to its products, mission, and values. As always, everything we do is in service of our community, and we believe this decision reflects the best interest of our Whole30’ers (and their taste buds).
Best in health,
Whole30 co-founder and CEO
P.S. As with any Whole30 compatible food, if non-dairy “cheese” products don’t serve your goals for your Whole30, or if they DO bring on cravings for wine and crackers, please feel free to leave them out of your program.