Daniela Cruz

Founder and CEO at CURA, Portugal

From fresh feta all the way to creamy camembert or decadent roquefort, this curious founder produces maturing dairy-free cheeses from scratch. Ready to go nuts? “Ever since doing my biology degree back in 2013, I was absolutely passionate about everything fermentation-related,” Porto-based Daniela Cruz shares. “In 2020, I was already working in the area of vegan gastronomy and making my first cheeses from plant-based protein sources like cashews and almonds. After many many trials, producing moulds of off shapes and colours, finally something that looked a lot like camembert made an appearance.”

Since the very first successes, Daniela was taken aback by the amount of interest from the people around. “It made me think about the idea of creating a brand and a production company,” Daniela elaborates. “That, combined with the fact that I always felt that there was a lack in the offer of really nutritious, healthy, and sustainable vegan cheeses in the market, made me take the first step to create CURA.”

“By offering a plant-based alternative to traditional cheeses, hand-made with time and respect for both the product and the planet, we hope to help shape the traditions of the future.”

Inspirations, go-to’s and lifehacks: 

  • Pandemic lifehack that helped you survive 2021: Home workouts 
  • Person that inspires you: my mom, she is my role model of a business woman 
  • Last series/movie that kept you awake: Suits
  • Favorite book / A book everyone should read: The 5 AM Club
  • Lastest podcast obsession: Hidden Brain 
  • App you find most valuable: Headspace
  • Favorite food / favorite vegan treat: Vegan cheese (of course!)

Launching in the middle of the global pandemic, she soon realized she doesn’t crack under pressure, either: “A few months after the first products were launched, the demand for our products grew very quickly, and it was overwhelming to quickly learn how to manage everything at a time when the team was still very small,” Daniela shares candidly. “I feel that this pressure to respond to the growing market made me find leadership skills that otherwise would have taken me much more time to acquire.” What has worked for her, personally, in this exciting whirlwind of an experience? For as long as she remembers, she has cultivated the habit of waking up very early and taking some time to herself in the morning, organizing her day, and setting tasks: “This way, I arrive at our production plant early and I get more done. In my perspective, having a calm and healthy routine in the morning changes everything, and can really be an improvement in our mood during the working day.” 

2021 was CURA’s first year in business. “We started selling only to local shops and groceries in Porto, Portugal, but quickly spread to other cities and gained new clients. We surpassed all goals we had for our first year in business, and started selling to Spain, too. This alone more than doubled our sales,” the vegan cheesemaker reflects. “With our work, we would like to contribute to changing eating habits and being a part of the food production system that respects the producer, the consumer, and the planet without harming animals.”

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Daniela is one of the Food Heroes for 2022. See more inspiring and world-changing stories from Food Heroes here.