Enter PIG OUT pigless bacon chips, the brainchild of former Beyond Meat chef and Hampton Creek cofounder Dave Anderson and the first of several plant-based, but bacon-tastic, products in the pipeline at Outstanding Foods, a new business on a mission to take plant-based 'meat' snacks to the mass market.
The chips - slated to hit the market around June, first online at OutstandingFoods.com, then Thrive Market, and later via a full-scale bricks and mortar rollout - are made with a certain variety of mushroom, sunflower/safflower oil and seasoning (details to follow in June), and are aimed squarely at mainstream consumers, Outstanding Foods CEO and serial entrepreneur Bill Glaser told FoodNavigator-USA.
“We want to make it easier for everyone to eat more plant-based foods, not because they are being preached at or judged, but because they taste incredible. Dave has created a completely new category in snack food. We’re not asking anyone to give anything up, because bacon chips don’t exist right now, it’s something new, and it takes just like crispy crunchy bacon. We’ve had hundreds of people try it without telling them what it is and they think it’s crispy bacon.
"I actually personally don't like mushrooms, but these frankly don't taste anything like mushrooms."
A culinary approach
Anderson added: “You get the savory, the umami, the saltiness, the sweetness, and the crunch. There's a lot of buzz right now around applying science to plant-based foods and you've also got all this work going into cultured meats, but I think there is also a lot of room to bring in a more culinary approach using simple whole foods and ingredients that are more familiar to consumers."
The chips are not being marketed or positioned as a health food – although they contain more fiber and protein than bacon-flavor corn or potato chips and an interesting array of nutrients including B vitamins, antioxidants that don’t get cooked out, and the cholesterol-lowering molecule lovastatin, noted Glaser.
“They also have anti-bacterial and anti-microbial qualities, although we won’t be making any claims on our packaging.”
We started by looking at where we could really own a category
Longer-term, Anderson and Glaser plan to bring out a series of products – some of which will aim to displace meat and dairy at the center of the plate (what many mission-driven plant-based food companies ultimately hope to achieve) – but they started with snacks for several reasons, said Glaser.
“We started by looking at where we could really own a category, and in the case of plant-based bacon, we saw a lot of what mainstream consumers would consider stereotypical ‘vegan’ foods, if you like. Trying to be something that they are not, not having the right taste and texture.
“We knew that if we had something dramatically differentiated, we could own this space. But we also wanted something really mass market, so we decided to start with snacks. Everyone eats chips. Further down the road we're looking at bacon strips, jerky, bacon bits, a bacon cheese product and other things, but we wanted to start with snacks as a gateway to bringing mainstream consumers to our brand."
Playful, fun, Millennial-focused
Priced at $4.99 a bag, the chips come in pillow bags and are designed to sit in the salty snacks aisle, not next to kale chips and other ‘alternative’ snacks, stressed Glaser.
"We wanted to be a Millennial-oriented brand that attracts attention on shelf, that's playful and fun and cool, inclusive and attractive."
Backed with $1.5m from the first wave of investors – which include former professional skateboarder, actor, producer, and TV personality Rob Dyrdek; actress, director and producer Emily Deschanel; and actress and singer Daniella Monet – Glaser and Anderson are now raising additional capital to get their plant-based empire off the ground, with some 'A-list' investors to be revealed shortly.
Much like Thrive Market, Outstanding Foods' strategy is to partner with high profile influencers that will also invest in the brand, said Glaser, who will also pay affiliates that drive traffic to the website a commission once the product launches this summer.
“We’ve got approved by UNFI and we expect the independents will pick us first and then we hope that chains such as Whole Foods will come on shortly thereafter.”
We have a patent pending
But how defensible is the pigless bacon chip? If enterprising food formulators at other snack food companies sliced up a few mushrooms, fried them and added seasoning, couldn’t they make something to rival PIG OUT?
Not easily, said Glaser, who claimed the production process is not as simple as it sounds: “We have a patent pending and based on the feedback of the USPTO examiner it seems likely that we’ll get it, although there are no guarantees. The slightest variation in the process you can get a completely different texture and experience, so there’s real finesse involved.”