Categories
Fast Food Plant-Based

Baja Fresh Introduces Three New Impossible Plant-Based Options

Photo: Baja Fresh

Three new Impossible Foods plant-based items are gracing Baja Fresh Mexican Grill’s menu.

Impossible Foods has been one of the leaders in the plant-based meat industry, collaborating with various fast food and fast-casual chains to help spread awareness of vegan options to a wider audience. The company’s latest partnership with Baja Fresh yields the following three new items:

  • Impossible Taco Combo: Three tacos with grilled corn tortillas filled with Impossible meat, shredded lettuce, pico de gallo, guacamole, Baja salsa, and Cotija cheese. Served with a side of black or pinto beans and Baja rice.
  • Fuego Impossible Burrito: Melted jack cheese, guacamole, black beans, Impossible meat, Diablo salsa, Six Chiles salsa, pico de gallo, pickled jalapeños, shredded lettuce and sour cream, all wrapped in a soft flour tortilla.
  • Impossible Bowl: Baja rice topped with roasted veggies, Impossible meat, sour cream, avocado, pico de gallo and tortilla strips.

All three of these new plant-based Impossible meat options can be found at all participating Baja Fresh locations for a limited time only.

Categories
Packaged Food Plant-Based

Crafty Counter Gears Up For Launch of Wundereggs, Billed as the First Plant-Based RTE Boiled Eggs

Photo: Crafty Corner

While the niche market of plant-based eggs already has scrambled egg applications covered via an assortment of brands, Crafty Corner will soon be entering the space with Wundereggs, a product that’s billed as the first plant-based ready to eat (RTE) boiled eggs, according to FoodNavigator-USA.

The Wundereggs are gluten free, soy free, grain free, and dairy free, and will be sold in packs of two plant-based boiled eggs. These ‘eggs’ are treated with high pressure processing (HPP), which give them a shelf life of 90-120 days. As for what they’re made up of, the egg white contains nuts and agar, while the yolk uses nuts, turmeric, and black salt.

Plant-based brand Crafty Counter, best-known for its frozen lentil- and bean-based bites – has developed these industry first ready-to-eat plant-based boiled eggs, which it hopes to launch late this year or early next year.

Further product details can be found here.

Categories
Entrepreneurship Fast Food Health Plant-Based

nomoo | New American Burgers: From Sacrifice to Success

Housed in the original Johnny Rockets on Melrose Ave, you’ll find nomoo | New American Burgers, the latest plant-based burger joint to hit Los Angeles. Retaining a nostalgic American diner element, as you enter you’re transported to a bygone era complete with eye-catching neon signs, vibrant interior colors and the unmistakable smell of classic deliciousness. Wrapped in the vintage aesthetic is a menu specially curated from passion and patience. 

Having been open only for a year, nomoo is the brainchild of owner George Montagu Brown. Brown was an unlikely burger joint owner. He originally ran a successful internet business in Costa Rica, which while very lucrative, failed to fill him with a sense of purpose. In thinking back on his previous business, he says, “One of the things I learned from early financial success was that money isn’t everything. The reward comes not from the profit numbers but seeing a team I built grow and work together, from guest interactions and when people love the food we created.”

As a vegan, Brown had a strong connection to the plight of farm animals. His dream had always been to raise awareness about the harrowing conditions of factory farming. Believing vegan food can (and does) change people’s perspective, he initially considered pursuing the avenue of education as a way to raise awareness. The burning question he longed to answer was, “Do we need animal products in fast food at all?” 

Ultimately deciding that experience, rather than education, was a better pathway forward, prompting Brown to create nomoo. To fulfill this mission, his idea was to offer the experience of “combining a restaurant with an ‘all day party’ vibe with plant-based products.” Brown set his mind to pursuing what he felt deeply to be his purpose and took a leap of faith. Knowing that success requires sacrifice, he shuttered his online business and invested his own money to make his dreams a reality. 

Pursuing his dream had its challenges. Without investors, he chose to move from Costa Rica, hoping to launch nomoo in Los Angeles. To further complicate the transition, he opened right before last year’s pandemic hit, forcing him to close the doors only seven days following. When nomoo finally reopened in June, it faced supply delays. Vegan products were often unavailable. Despite the setbacks, Brown managed to push through and now shares his vision with hungry Angelenos looking for post-pandemic grub.

Prepped entirely by hand, considerable emphasis is placed on quality. The nomoo burger is the house staple. Ingredients consist of the Impossible patty complimented by an in-house nomoo sauce, American cheeze, house pickles, and a tomato resting atop a bed of butter lettuce that’s secured by a freshly made brioche bun. Additional menu items include plant-based takes on American diner classics like The Hot Chik’in sandwich, handspun gourmet shakes, fries and an assortment of tasty sauces. I had the opportunity to try their most recent offering, the BBQ Facon Burger, and I can say it too delivers on all mouthwatering fronts. Additionally, the food is made fresh daily and 10% of proceeds are donated to Mercy For Animals.

Fueled by purpose, Brown can often be found at nomoo | New American Burgers on Melrose Ave. working “twice as hard for much less pay.”

Categories
Sweets

Trader Joe’s Adds Boba-Filled Vegan Cold Brew Frozen Dessert

Photo courtesy of Trader Joe’s

There was a time someone with severe lactose intolerance couldn’t enjoy a pint of coffee ice cream without getting a stomachache. Those days are long gone now, as brands have begun offering a plethora of non-dairy options in all sorts of flavors for those not about dairy.

Take Trader Joe’s new Cold Brew Coffee and Boba Coconut Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert. While this mouthful may give you brain freeze if you dive in too fast, there’s nothing about this robustly-named product that hasn’t piqued my coffee dessert-loving interest.

The brand’s newest flavor features a creamy coconut milk base, with the flavors of cold brew coffee made from Thai-grown Arabica coffee beans, and chewy tapioca pearls.

You can find this entirely vegan frozen dessert at the freezer section of your local Trader Joe’s.

Categories
Fast Food Plant-Based

Peets Is First Major Chain To Release A 100% Plant Based Breakfast Sandwich

Photo courtesy of Peet’s

One of the biggest questions surrounding fast food for 2021 was which chain would make a 100% plant-based breakfast sandwich first.

With spots like Burger King and Starbucks switching their meat options, and major vegan egg and dairy suppliers available, we knew the addition was coming to give plant-based folks a true breakfast sandwich option.

However, none of the major chains that were fielding plant-based breakfast meats were the first to go fully plant-based for breakfast. Instead, it was Starbucks rival Peet’s Coffee and Tea.

Peet’s combined vegan cheddar, Beyond Breakfast Sausage, and vegan JUST Egg into their new Everything Plant-Based Sandwich, which puts all of the above into a fully vegan Everything Bagel thin.

It’s a simple combination of already existing plant-based options, but it’s the first amongst major fast food players, which means everybody else will likely follow suit in the immediate future.

Peet’s Everything Plant-Based Sandwich is now available at participating locations nationwide.

Categories
Culture Hit-Or-Miss Sweets What's New

Ben & Jerry’s and Colin Kaepernick Debut Brand New Vegan Flavor

With Ben & Jerry’s stepping up to the plate and being a prominent supporter of social justice, it only made sense for them to link up with ardent social activist and former NFL start Colin Kaepernick to release a brand new, permanent flavor.

Named “Change the Whirled,” the entirely vegan offering features a caramel non-dairy sunflower butter base with fudge chips, graham cracker swirls and chocolate cookie swirls. It’s a tasty plant-based option that makes sense for Kaepernick, who is a vegan himself.

This partnership is an appropriate nod to the courageous work Kaepernick has done to champion social justice, pursuing equity for Black and Brown people, and confronting systemic oppression and police violence. With Ben & Jerry’s aspiring to become a social justice company themselves, this sweet collab is a step in the right direction to shedding more light on the social justice ills that have plagued America. What’s more, this new flavor will also support the work of Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camps, which he founded to advance the liberation and well-being of Black and Brown communities.

Change the Whirled will be available as a full-time flavor at Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shops and on store shelves nationwide in the United States beginning in 2021 with a suggested MSRP of $4.99-$5.49. 

Categories
Grocery Plant-Based

Beyond Meat To Debut ‘Extra Juicy’ and ‘Lean’ Varieties in 2021

Photo courtesy of Beyond Meat

In a move to further position themselves as a grocery store alternative to ground beef, Beyond Meat is taking a page out of the beef industry’s playbook. They’re going to start selling blends of their plant-based product that vary based on fat content.

The new forms don’t have official names yet, but one is being touted as the “brand’s juiciest patty” while the other is described as the company’s “most nutritious patty yet.” To differentiate, you could almost think of them as “Extra Juicy” and “Lean.”

In terms of ground beef varieties, you could consider Beyond Meat’s regular version to be standard ground beef, “Extra Juicy” to be like 80/20 or Extra Fatty, and the “Lean” one to be like a 96/4 blend of beef.

The “juiciest patty” form still has 35% less saturated fat than 80/20 ground beef, while the “most nutritious” form has 55% less saturated fat than 80/20 ground beef.

For context, Beyond Meat’s current iteration has 5 g of saturated fat per quarter pound, and 80/20 ground beef has about 8 grams of saturated fat per quarter pound. The “juiciest patty” form should have slightly more fat than Beyond’s standard product. Meanwhile, the “most nutritious form,” at 55% less saturated fat than 80/20 beef, would have slightly less than 4 grams of saturated fat per quarter pound based on Beyond’s claims.

Some folks will be sampling the new varieties in a sold-out tasting event in Los Angeles later in 2020. As for everyone else, they can expect to find the new options in stores in early 2021.

Categories
Grocery Plant-Based Science Sweets

Can Ice Cream Made With Cow DNA Be 100% Vegan?

The plant-based and vegan industry has found some novel ways to create meat substitutes. Mostly, it’s been finding plant sources of some of the proteins and other molecules key to making meat, which is what companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have done. 

An emerging company, however, is taking a more direct approach to creating these proteins. They’re making products like ice cream that use real milk protein and cow DNA, yet still claims them to be 100 percent vegan.

Photo courtesy of Perfect Day

I know that phrase is going to generate controversy. Yes, it’s the exact same protein you get from milk. Yes, it does utilize the genes from a cow to make the protein. However, it doesn’t use any animals, any DNA extracted from an animal, or animal products whatsoever. 

This vegan milk protein comes from Perfect Day, who specializes in what they would describe as “fermented vegan dairy” that’s 100% animal-free. 

“The cool thing is we’re doing it with fermentation, so not a single cow is involved in our process,” says Nicki Briggs, Perfect Day’s VP of Corporate Communications.

Instead, Perfect Day uses a fermentation process that’s been widely used by various companies over the years. Briggs compared it to how proteins like insulin or rennet are made today in a conversation with Foodbeast.

Photo courtesy of Perfect Day

Rennet, the curdling protein for cheese, is traditionally harvested from a calf’s stomach. Today, 90 percent of it is vegetarian, made by getting yeast to ferment sugars into the exact same protein. According to Briggs, Perfect Day uses that exact same process to make their vegan milk protein. The result is a powder that can be used to make ice cream, cheese, yogurt, and more. 

For milk, it contains two predominant types of protein: casein and whey. The protein that Perfect Day is making, beta-lactoglobulin (BLG), is one of the primary components of whey protein. “We found that beta-lactoglobulin is the most nutritious and the most functional of all of the proteins in milk,” Briggs explained, indicating that BLG was the key one needed to create a functional alternative to getting milk from cows.

To get the fungi, called trichoderma, to make the milk protein, Perfect Day downloaded part of the genetic makeup of a cow into the fungi. Segments of DNA coding in any creature are used by cells to make different key components, including proteins. Adding that code into a fungi cell known for producing large quantities of protein was the key to making Perfect Day’s product. 

One could call this “genetic engineering,” but it doesn’t use a technique like CRISPR, which splices in genes from another creature’s cells. Instead, Perfect Day turned to a virtual source of DNA: Google. 

“We were able to, as silly as it sounds, Google it and find the sequence online,” Briggs explained.  “We were able to use this sequence to influence our microflora.”

The microflora can then grow the protein en masse in giant fermentation tanks. That is then turned into the powder that can be added to an ice cream mix or other vegan dairy products to give it a structure akin to real dairy.

Right now, there’s only two brands in markets that use this novel animal-free whey: Smitten, who teamed up with Perfect Day to make limited batches of “N’ice cream,” and Brave Robot, who heavily advertises the protein they use in their pints of frozen dessert. 

Brave Robot was locally available for me, so I secured some pints to sample and analyze. They use a blend of plant oils to replace the fat you would normally get in milk, as well as sunflower lecithin (a substitute for soy) to emulsify everything together. 

The result is an extremely creamy ice cream that, at serving temperature, is pretty spot on to the original. I would say it does freeze a little bit harder than regular ice cream, but is way closer than any other vegan substitute I’ve tried.

Because this ice cream alternative does use real milk protein, it’s not recommended for those with allergies to milk. Allergies are triggered by proteins, and while a different protein (called alpha-s1 casein) is a more common allergen trigger in milk, beta-lactoglobulin can still cause issues for those sensitive to milk. 

This, as well as the fact that it is a real protein, are some of the larger concerns some may have in calling what Perfect Day creates “vegan.” Yes, it doesn’t use any animals, but the structure of what’s inside it and real milk are identical. 

Briggs understands that, saying “We want the word vegan to be a helpful navigation tool to find products not named from animals, but don’t want to be misleading.” While she believes that Perfect Day’s product fits under the technical term for vegan, there’s a different phrase she would use as well.

“We see animal-free as the master name for this,” she said. As for terms like lab-grown, describing Perfect Day’s protein as that would be “inaccurate,” as it’s “less sci-fi than it seems.”

While Perfect Day is using a technology that’s not new, they are applying it in a new way by recreating an “animal-free” milk protein that can be used to craft ice creams nearly identical to the original.

Perfect Day does plan to create the entire lineup of milk proteins and other dairy products, but those will come down the line as the company continues to grow.