Plant-based foods are experiencing a renaissance of sorts these days. Whether it’s through vegetarians looking to add more protein, flexitarians looking for heart-healthy options, or simply adventurous eaters looking for palate-expanding options, meat alternatives are making headlines for their growing popularity and increasingly mass appeal.
I sat down with Michael Lenahan, Vice President of Marketing for Field Roast Grain Meat Co., a pioneering plant-based meat alternative company, to learn more about the origins of the company, about its ever-expanding line—including on-trend grab-and-go Deli Slices and plant-based cheeses, and the ways in which Field Roast is making the most of a market that is finally catching up to the forward-thinking company.
Robert Schaulis: Tell me a little about the history of Field Roast: When was the company founded and by whom?
Michael Lenahan: Field Roast, the original maker of grain meats, was founded in 1997 in Seattle, Washington by Chef David Lee and his brother, Richard Lee. The company started with our original loaves in three classic flavors: Smoked Tomato, Lentil Sage, and Wild Mushroom. Since the brand’s launch in 1997, we have been a pioneer in the plant-based category by creating flavorful products that satisfy without mimicking the taste of traditional meat and dairy products. Our ever-expanding array of products includes roasts, sausages, deli slices, loaves, a frankfurter, a burger, plant-based cheese slices, and we’ve recently extended into the frozen aisle with plant-based frozen snacks and entrees.
RS: What would you say is the ethos behind Field Roast? What sets the company apart from others in the plant-based food field?
ML: At Field Roast, we believe real food is better than fake food, which is why our artisanal products begin with familiar, whole food ingredients. We use grains, fresh vegetables and bold spices to create flavors that stand on their own.
We also celebrate food-making traditions to create something special. Our products are made in small batches, and we use the simple culinary tenets of traditional meat- and cheese-making practices. Our artisanal plant-based meats are high in protein, cholesterol-free, and non-GMO.
RS: When did the company release its line of Deli Slices? Who is the target consumer for Field Roast's Deli Slices, and how does the line appeal to them?
ML: Field Roast Deli Slices are charcuterie-style gourmet deli meats that launched in 2002. In flavors like Smoked Tomato, Lentil Sage, and Wild Mushroom, our Deli Slices add a tasty bite to cold-cut or melt-style hot sandwiches (especially layered with our Chao Slices). We were inspired to provide plant-based meat options for all types of meals and brought our consumers lunch-friendly options for sandwiches, paninis, salads and more.
RS: Can you tell me a little bit about the inception of Chao Creamery? How did the product line develop, and what makes the Chao Slices unique?
ML: Chao Creamery began 15 years ago when we created our first hand-formed Herbed Chao Ball, a simple soft plant-based cheese made from fermented tofu, fresh tofu, shiro miso paste, fresh garlic, and seasonings, all rolled in a balanced blend of green herbs. Fermented tofu adds a buttery texture and cheesy bite to all of our Chao Creamery products.
Today, our ever-expanding line of Chao Creamery products honors our commitment to crafting products that are modern yet familiar. Our trio of creamy, dairy-free Chao Slices, available in Creamy Original, Tomato Cayenne and Garden Herb, peel easily, shred well, and melt like a dream. Being the perfect pair to many of our grain meats, these slices have a distinct umami flavor thanks to the fermented tofu. We expanded the Chao Creamery portfolio last year with the launch of our delicious line of Mac ‘n Chao. With cheesy sauces made using our Chao Slices, these two homestyle classics are perfectly creamy in texture and umami—with no dairy.
RS: I understand Field Roast has some other new items in stores recently?
ML: We’re especially excited about our recently launched plant-based Frozen Snacks—Miniature Corn Dogs, FRuffalo Wings, and Sunflower Country-Style Katsu Cutlet. These delicious small bites are what we make in our own kitchens using Field Roast products; each one born from the inspiration of a fun way to cut, dip or slather with sauce. You can find them in the frozen aisle nationwide .
Field Roast is available at a variety of retailers nationwide, including Target, Walmart, Whole Foods, Kroger and many more. To find a retailer near you, check our store locater, here.
For more on all things dairy, deli, bakery, and specialty food, keep reading Deli Market News.