No Evil Foods: Plant-based eating should be 'about inclusivity and positivity... not finger pointing and shaming'

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Picture: No Evil Foods
Picture: No Evil Foods

Related tags No Evil Foods plant-based meat plant-based

The plant-based meat category is becoming increasingly competitive, with legacy brands vying for shelf space with multinationals, well-funded foodtech players, and a host of enterprising startups, says No Evil Foods co-founder Sadrah Schadel. But independent brands with a strong personality can still cut through the noise, she says.

North Carolina-based No Evil Foods​ ​– founded by Schadel and Mike Wolianksky in 2014 and now in 5,000+ stores including Whole Foods, Wegmans, Albertsons, Walmart and Kroger – is not going head to head with Impossible Foods or Beyond Meat, who are effectively reverse engineering meat and putting it back together, molecule by molecule, with plants, says Schadel.

You’ve got brands that are selling a broccoli or bean burger, and then brands that are deconstructing meat at the molecular level.We’re kind of at the intersection between these two, offering a clean label product that’s minimally processed but that still delivers a true meaty experience, and that’s what special about No Evil Foods.

“We don’t use any isolated proteins ​[No Evil's go-to ingredient is wheat gluten, a protein concentrate] and everything we use is something that you could likely find in your pantry, but we’re creating flavors and textures that meat eaters enjoy," ​added Schadel, who raised a Series A round in 2019 backed by investors including Blue Horizon, Stray Dog Capital and Veg Invest, and will be raising a Series B round in 2021.

'A clean label product that’s minimally processed but that still delivers a true meaty experience'

No Evil's products are manufactured in-house in North Carolina, which ​has presented challenges as it has tried to navigate COVID-19, but has also enabled the company to innovate more quickly, said Schadel. Retaining control over its own supply chain has also been critical this year given the disruption caused by COVID-19, she said.

"I think that our team feels pretty supported at the moment, but there have been some bumps in the road​."

As for merchandising, No Evil products have historically been placed in the fresh produce department and the frozen aisle, but the brand is now having conversations with retailers about getting into their refrigerated plant-based meat segments within the fresh meat department, said Schadel.

"We see a huge opportunity here based on the research that the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA) did with Kroger ​[which showed that plant-based meat brands performed better when stocked in a dedicated section within the meat case]."

'It's all about inclusivity and positivity over finger pointing and shaming'

So who is consuming No Evil products?

The customer base has evolved over the years, said Schadel, who is launching a shelf-stable plant-based jerky next year and planning possible moves into the beef category (currently it focuses on chicken and pork): "Our early adopters were vegans and vegetarians, and they are still a passionate part of our customer base, but we're starting to see a broadening this year and seeing more engagement from flexitarians and people that are transitioning from a predominantly meat-based diet to a more plant-forward diet."

That said, the company's messaging has always tried to be as inclusive as possible, said Schadel, who says finger-wagging is not a great marketing strategy for plant-based meat companies, even if they are often founded by people that care passionately about animal welfare or sustainability.

"It's all about inclusivity and positivity over finger pointing and shaming. We try not to play that game. We want people to feel encouraged."

'It's about congratulating people on the small steps'

When you open a box of No Evil products, for example, tucked in the inner flap is information that explains the positive impact that making different dietary choices can have on the environment or your health, she explained.

"It's about congratulating people on the small steps that they can make rather than advocating for absolutism. If lots of people do small things every day, it can add up to big change."

While the brand name - 'No Evil Foods' - might hint at self-righteousness, it's meant to be fun, accessible and welcoming, said Schadel. "We don't take ourselves too seriously and we want people to have fun with our food and try new things."

No Evil products
No Evil Foods manufactures a range of products at its North Carolina plant including plant-based chicken pieces (‘Comrade Cluck’), plant-based chorizo (‘El Capitan,’ ‘El Zapatista’), plant-based Italian sausage (‘The Stallion’), and plant-based pulled pork BBQ (‘Pit Boss’). A plant-based jerky will hit the market next year

Triple digit growth

No Evil doesn’t disclose its revenues, but has “grown at least 100% year on year for the past three years,”​ claimed Schadel, who predicts that the COVID-19 outbreak will accelerate the push towards plant-based eating as consumers start to question the role of industrialized animal agriculture in the spread of animal and human pandemics.

There is also mounting research​ to suggest that people on vegan and vegetarian diets have better health outcomes, she said. "Younger generations are also much more focused on sustainability ​and I think they are really going to drive the growth in the plant-based meat category.

"We're up over 281% year on year in conventional and up 35% in natural channels."

“People say that change starts in your own backyard,” says No Evil Foods co-founder Sadrah Schadel, pictured with co-founder Mike Woliansky. “And for us it literally did. We went on a self-sufficiency drive, grew our own food, and tried to make everything from scratch, including [plant-based] meat. The recipes that became eventual No Evil Foods products were made in my parents’ basement in Upstate New York.”

plastic negative no evil

No Evil Foods wraps its meat in plastic shrink-wrap. It's then packaged in a biodegradable cardboard box. "To have a product that's safe and meets our quality standards, there's no alternative to plastic ​[for the inner wrapping] right now," ​said Schadel. 

Through a new partnership with rePurpose Global​, however, it has committed to going 'plastic negative' by funding the recovery and recycling of two pounds of plastic waste for every pound it generates.

"Until an alternative exists we've made a commitment to remove twice as much as we recreate, and we hope we inspire others to do the same."

No Evil Comrade Cluck 'no chicken' ingredients:​ Filtered water, Non-GMO vital wheat gluten, organic shoyu, organic chickpea flour, nutritional yeast, organic garlic powder, organic onion powder.

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