California’s Alpha Foods creates plant-based foods that have been in the refrigerators of many of us for years, having been founded in 2015 and offering convenient animal-free foods like burritos, wraps, nuggets, and strips. Alpha Foods was “started with the vision of using the power of food to make impactful and positive changes to our health, animal welfare, and our planet’s food system,” and that’s a mission we can get behind for certain.
Founder and CEO Cole Orobetz says, “I believe in the power of food to make change; food is an experience that has the power to connect us, nourish us, and all too often, also divide us.”
Since we haven’t spoken with Cole since 2020, it was time to catch up; a lot has happened in the meantime.
What is the story behind Alpha Foods?
In 2015, Alpha Foods was founded to provide crave-worthy, convenient, and nutritious plant-based frozen products that can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of where they are on their plant-based journey. Our goal is to facilitate a casual and non-threatening transition to plant-based eating, empowering individuals to positively impact their health, animal welfare, and the environment, all while avoiding feeling trapped by food labels. Alpha became a convenient entry point for those exploring plant-based eating, offering a variety of familiar favorites that seamlessly fit into consumers’ lifestyles.
We started by pioneering plant-based burritos nationwide, and now have expanded into different dayparts to include breakfast favorites with our breakfast burritos and sandwiches, as well as our new Chik’n and Maple Waffle sandwich. Today, Alpha leads the reinvigoration in the plant-based category. We remain committed to creating crave-worthy favorites that mirror the characteristics of their animal counterparts using innovative high moisture extrusion (HME) technology and have some exciting items in development with our partnership with The EVERY Co.
“We remain committed to creating crave-worthy favorites that mirror the characteristics of their animal counterparts”
As we continue to remain at the forefront of innovation, our mission of making delicious products that positively contribute to our collective health, animal welfare, and our planet’s food system remains unwavering.
Recently you developed the high moisture extrusion (HME) technology for the plant-based Chik’n Strips. Can you share how HME works and the benefits of it?
Alpha utilizes high moisture extrusion (HME) technology to process our new plant-based Alpha Chik’n Strips. Our proprietary HME process involves a specialized cook-and-stir method in high heat and pressure, which creates products with higher protein content and fewer ingredients. These strips cook, shred, and taste just like its animal counterpart.
The integration of HME fuels innovation, allowing us to create even more crave-worthy and nutritious plant-based options in different formats and flavors. By leveraging HME, we aim to offer more consumers plant-based options with elevated taste and texture with uncompromising nutrition just like its animal counterpart.
Tell us more about the cooperation with the protein pioneer Every Company – what can we expect to see from this partnership?
Our partnership with EVERY Co. brings together their sustainable, nature-equivalent proteins with Alpha’s chef-crated products. As an innovative company, this partnership allows us to offer superior, crave-worthy, and convenient plant-based options that closely mimic traditional animal proteins, without the associated disease risk, price volatility, and environmental footprint with animal-based products.
“…this partnership allows us to offer superior, crave-worthy, and convenient plant-based option”
Consumer education will be critical to advancing these hybrid-type products into market at scale and will ultimately push the eco-system forward once they succeed as they perform amazingly.
Please describe your current portfolio, which is the biggest seller and why? In which markets and retailers are you available?
We offer a variety of crave-worthy plant-based favorites for any time of day. Our top sellers are our chik’n portfolio, all-day burritos, and breakfast burritos and sandwiches including our newest Alpha Chik’n and Maple Waffle sandwich. These are our biggest sellers because these products fulfill the need for convenient and nutritious plant-based options paired with unparalleled flavors consumers love. Alpha Foods is currently distributed in the United States, Canada, and Asia, with a US presence in 11,000 retail doors, including Costco, Sprouts, Kroger, Whole Foods, Safeway, H-E-B, and more, with 90,000 retail points of distribution.
How do you see the current state of the plant-based industry in light of recent challenges, and how do you think it will develop?
While the plant-based industry has faced some challenges, it is important to note that it is dynamic and has continued to evolve in the last few years.
Alpha recently conducted a study that shows more consumers are plant-curious, but some may be intimated to try a plant-based diet due to false nutritional claims. This drives us to continue innovating within the category and create flavorful products with improved taste, texture and nutrition that welcome both meat-eaters and vegans alike to enjoy products that are better for our health, animal welfare, and the planet. We always stay informed about market trends, technological advancements, and consumer preferences to further advance our innovation pipeline.
Retailers have also voiced to us that they are actively seeking solutions to reinvigorate their plant-based offerings and are looking to Alpha Foods for category leadership here.
Alpha has always proudly been at the forefront of innovation, whether through our recently launched Alpha Chick’n Strips HME product line or this latest collaboration with The EVERY Company, and are excited about the vast opportunity to not just lead but expand the plant-based category far beyond what we know today. Given our strong retailer relationships, we at Alpha Foods have the unique opportunity to partner with those that are innovation-forward and look forward to reviewing new product offerings with retailers in the back half of the year.
Do you have any new products or projects in the pipeline?
We look forward to bringing innovation to market through our partnership with EVERY Co. in the near future as well as new projects based on our recently launched HME protein, starting first with the Alpha Chick’n Strips. We have an extensive portfolio renovation underway that will upgrade the eating experience, nutrition, and look/feel of our core product line. Look for this all coming through the next 2-6 months.
“We have an extensive portfolio renovation underway”
We are finalizing a few other partnerships that will be announced later this year that continue to push innovation within our current pipeline and create new crave-worthy, plant-based favorites that consumers of all dietary lifestyles can enjoy.
Where do you see Alpha Foods 5 years from now?
Alpha Foods has been a pioneer in the ever-evolving plant-based food industry and we aim to be a household brand known for making the most delicious and convenient products made from plants. We will continue to further our mission forward of making convenient, crave-able favorites that promote better health, animal welfare, and a better food system for our planet.
With our strong and growing retailer relationships, we continue to see growth within our consumer fan base. Alpha Foods will continue to partner with other innovation-forward organizations that will help strengthen our product line such as our current partnership with EVERY Co, Violife, and others. Alpha Foods will continue to create plant-based favorites with uncompromising nutrition that are accessible at thousands of retailers for all dietary lifestyles to enjoy.