Hooray Foods is a brand on a mission – “Saving animals from the food system, one pig at a time”. This World Vegan Day, Hooray announced the long-awaited debut of its gluten-free, allergy-free, dairy-free, soy-free, meat-free bacon into seven regions of the USA through a distribution partnership with Whole Foods.
Already piquing the interest of various plant-based investors and VC firms including Kale United, Stray Dog Capital, and David Benzaquen’s Mission Plant LLC, this plant meat brand has clear potential and is set to go far.
We were delighted to speak with founder and CEO Sri Artham about his mission, and the journey of his brand so far, through COVID and onwards.
Tell us a little about why you founded your brand.
As much as our plant-based bacon is a fun and joy-creating product, its origins are rooted in increasing climate disasters. In particular, I personally experienced the Camp Fire that destroyed the town of Paradise, California. Where I live in San Francisco, you couldn’t go outside for several days because the air was so bad – an experience that was repeated just last month.
Greenhouse gas emissions directly contribute to climate change, and animal agriculture is the second largest contributor to those emissions. So, I set out to make an impact in displacing animals from our food system through the creation of Hooray Foods.
What was your process in figuring out how to create such a realistic plant-based bacon?
Like any new invention, it involved a lot of research, trial and error, and a lot of luck. I think some of my greatest inspiration came from binge-watching The Great British Baking Show over the holidays in December 2018. I then started to study how plant-based meats are made, in particular learning from an excellent Good Food Institute course. After that, it was a LOT of experimentation – if you ever see some of the failed experiments you’ll surely laugh. At least my friends did.
What’s novel about your product in comparison to others?
The most important difference compared to other plant-based bacon is the fat. Bacon is fatty and that’s why we love it! So, I came up with a way to get a high amount of fat (in this case, coconut oil) into a starch substrate.
Along the journey, I was challenged by my sister-in-law to create something that my niece Riya, who has a lot of allergies, could eat. So, in addition to being plant-based, our bacon is also gluten-free, soy-free, allergy-free, and dairy-free. Hooray Foods uses ingredients that consumers can feel great about, because we believe eating should be a joyful, guilt-free experience.
Price Parity is a big issue with persuading meat eaters to switch, how does your bacon compare in price?
Right now, our bacon is priced similarly to a premium bacon at $8.99 for a 10-strip pack. This is similar to the premium you would pay for an Impossible Burger or Beyond Burger. And just like Impossible and Beyond, our goal is to reach meat-eaters or flexitarians, and give them the same experience they crave with meat but do it with less guilt and more joy.
What is next after plant-based bacon?
Oh, I wish I could tell you! We have already prototyped our next product and some early reviews say it’s even better than our bacon. That’s all I can say for now.
We recently published that you have secured a distribution deal with Whole Foods in the USA. Do you have plans to further this distribution? In the US and Internationally?
Right now, we’re fully focused on making sure our launch with Whole Foods goes well – we have to be able to produce our bacon reliably, and make sure that Whole Foods shoppers like it and buy it. From there, we certainly plan to expand – hopefully to the remaining Whole Foods stores and to some other grocers that we are already in talks with. We are also in the process of setting up distribution agreements in other parts of the world, but first things first.
And let’s not forget restaurants – most bacon is consumed in restaurants, so we have plans to launch there next year.
In July you were successful with a seed round of funding led by Stray Dog Capital, how has that helped your company and do you have plans for further capital raise?
Stray Dog Capital has been wonderful, leading our Seed round in the midst of a pandemic fraught with uncertainty. The funds were used to build our production line which includes some pretty cool custom machinery (including a bacon machine!). We’re also using those funds to build our brand, expand our distribution, and work on making our bacon even better. And yes, if all goes well, we’ll be raising more money next year.
2020 has been a challenging year for many, how has it been for your brand?
Oh boy, what an adventure it has been! The first week of March was the week we had our first production run for restaurants and was also the week we kicked off our Seed round. We were planning trade shows, doing bacon photoshoots, and getting psyched up. Then COVID-19 hit, restaurants had to immediately shut down, and all funding temporarily came to a halt.
But we persevered and adjusted. Thankfully, the opportunity with Whole Foods was already in the works, and investors were eventually able to confirm that the market for plant-based meats was stronger than ever. In the meantime, we’re also trying our best to support our one and most faithful restaurant customer – Plant Café in San Francisco – which is struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic.
Do you have any advice for other start-ups in this growing sector?
I would like to share the advice that was shared with me when I started on this journey. There’s an immense amount of opportunity in plant-based eating and we’re just starting to figure it out, so, if you’re curious about the industry, just jump in, and something will almost certainly happen.
What, in your opinion, is the most significant way to make a positive impact on the environment? For the average person, there’s almost no better way to start than by changing what you eat. You can do it immediately and it doesn’t have to cost you anything to do. Also, for most people reading this, the biggest component of your carbon footprint is likely the flights you take – so perhaps this pandemic can teach us that we don’t have to fly nearly as much as we have been.
What are your plans for the future, in the short and long term?
The problem of climate change is both massive and looming, so the most important thing is for us to create products that people love and get them widely distributed. First bacon, and then other products.
Along the way, we want to help those adjacent to our journey, from animal sanctuaries rescuing pigs from abuse, to farmers looking to find new ways of making a living.
I believe companies have a responsibility not only to their shareholders but to the society in which they operate, and Hooray plans to embody that responsibility.