In a time where veggie burgers bleed and meatballs can be made on a petri dish, No Evil Foods founders Sadrah Schadel and Mike Woliansky are differentiating their non-meat protein brand by going with a homemade approach.
“One of the benefits to our company is that we have recipes that we originally developed in a kitchen,” Woliansky said. “We use ingredients that, when you read the ingredients, you understand what you’re reading.”
North Carolina-based No Evil Foods has three products: The shredded-meat-like 'The Prepper,' the bratwurst-like 'The Stallion,' and the chorizo-like 'El Zapatista.”'All three use vital wheat gluten to bind all the ingredients together, create the meat-like texture, and provide around 20g of protein per serving.
The plant-based market crowds up
Founded in 2014, No Evil Foods started at the eve of a plant-based trend sweeping the nation with nut-derived ‘milks’ and plant-derived proteins. The market was estimated to have hit $4.9bn in June 2016, led by nut milks that have siphoned away sales from dairy milk.
To the two co-founders, nut milk’s success is a promising sign for meat substitutes. “If you think about the [plant based milk] world, 10 years ago, 15 years ago, it was very small,” Woliansky said. Their relatively small brand is distributed in about 150 stores, mainly in the southeast of the US (where it is distributed to the region’s Whole Foods stores), and as of this month, the Midwest.
“We’re definitely the underdog,” Schadel said. “If you’ve been following the category, you know that there’s a lot of VC money going into it, which shows there’s a lot of excitement, exposure, and possibilities,” she added.
Gluten over soy or peas
In the world of plant-based foods, soy has been the traditional choice to mimic meat’s texture and protein count, while peas are becoming the next hot thing. No Evil Foods, however, went with vital wheat gluten.
“It’s the main primary ingredient of all of our products at the time,” Schadel said. “It’s a contributor to nailing the texture, making it so meat-like that it can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with animal protein.”
A main goal is to not only bring in new ‘converts,’ or people who wouldn’t have traditionally opted for a non-meat option in their sandwiches or tacos or burgers, but cater to their core vegetarian and vegan customers. “I think it’s a misconception that vegetarians and vegans aren’t looking for something meaty,” Schadel said.
“People choose to avoid meat for a variety of reasons, and it’s not always because they didn’t like the taste or texture, so I think finding a way to fulfil people to still have that and meet their carnal need for meat but in an ethical and environmentally sensitive way, I think those are great things to provide to people.”
A guerrilla look
The co-founders attributed branding as a major contributor to increasing awareness of the brand.
“We’re using our branding to disrupt the market by pushing a little bit more with being edgier,” Woliansky said. For Schadel, it was important to excite people. “We’re not one of the legacy brands that people have seen for a long time, so I think it’s really refreshing to see someone else kind of new in the game,” she said.
The brand is now using the plant-based momentum to expand into foodservice (such as campuses and universities), as well as diversify their product offering. “I think there’s tons of room for growth…in the category, but there’s no shortage of space to come in,” Woliansky said.
Schadel added: “I think people are hungry for it. Following this lifestyle for a long-term can feel a bit stagnated at time, so I think it’s really exciting to see new things happening.”