• gardein available at costco: we’re talking mainstream now!

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    June 12th, 2010quarrygirlother, products

    UPDATE: costco no longer carries gardein. 🙁 it was a trial run, apparently. don’t let that get you down, though! be sure to request gardein each time you shop there. let’s get it back in stores.

    every new vegan product goes through an arc of acceptance. first of all, it very clearly appeals to its core audience; the manufacturer will fall all over itself for any blog post, a bit of twitter love, and a handful of facebook “likes”. they will eke out an early existence sending samples to anybody who asks, while in the background, their PR machine will be laser-focused on reeling in major distribution channels to sell their products everywhere from restaurants to health food stores, all the time hoping (perhaps praying), that they will reach the nirvana of acceptance: going mainstream.

    one of the most notable products to achieve “mainstream” success over the past 3 years, has been gardein. after all, how much more mainstream could a product be than to chill away in a freezer at your local costco? the answer is: none. none more mainstream.

    yes, right there in between a 50 pack of chicken thighs and bacon wrapped burgers, indolently sits one of our favorite vegan products ever…the “gardein crispy tenders“. each bag boasts 40 pieces of faux meat, and costs just shy of $10. this is a HUGE win for vegans who can get to a costco, and we are beyond happy that a vegan product is getting such mainstream exposure!

    back in the day, we used to love gardein, and they in return loved us. we’d rave about their products, travel far and wide to taste them, even adjusting our new york city travel plans in order to try the new garden blend from chipotle. this is where things started to go slightly wrong. upon arriving at chipotle, we were told that the kitchen preparation of the garden blend meant that it inevitably came into contact and was mixed in with meat juices in a shared pan, on a shared grill…and therefore it could not be considered vegan. the cashier even advised us not to order it.

    a similar situation occurred last weekend when we visited yard house in irvine. again, a responsible employee advised us that gardein products in their establishment were not vegan, unless major food preparation process modifications were taken on their part. since chipotle has fixed its ways, and yard house has told us that they are working on a separate vegetarian and vegan menu, gardein has still remained silent. gone, have been the retweets or @ replies from gardein when we blog about them, gone has been their acknowledgement on facebook, and gone has been their outreach when it comes to sending info on their new products. however, gardein has been delighted to retweet wholly inaccurate perspectives in regards to their “vegan” products.

    outrageous!

    now it’s clear why gardein’s PR machine and the vegan blogosphere have parted ways. gardein is not a company with vegan values, they don’t care about vegan issues, and they have clearly shifted their focus to the omnivorous world. don’t get me wrong, i’d prefer a million people to eat a pound of gardein rather than a pound of chicken. however, we all need to remember where we’ve come from, to have a clear view of where we are trying to go. not only has gardein sidled up to omnivores everywhere, but they have distanced themselves from the core group of people who buy their products the most and will always be there for them when some national chain baulks over weak sales and pulls gardein from the menu (hopefully this won’t happen, but in reality, gardein, you can’t win ’em all).

    why, might you ask, is a vegan blogger ripping on a company whose products are stamped, “certified vegan”? i’ll tell you why. because two inches away from the reassuring “v” symbol, are a list of “meal ideas” which include milk products (ranch dressing), fish products (caesar dressing), as well as a cornucopia of cheeses, mayonnaise, and sour cream.

    when you take this, and you add it to the sudden alienation of the vegan community, there is only one conclusion to draw…

    gardein is not a company with a vegan agenda. but that’s okay. it really is. just don’t pretend to be, and don’t ignore the thousands of people who helped you get where you are today. we seek out locations where your products are sold, we drive miles to buy them. we ask the questions, we talk to the managers, we help everyone understand how to cater to vegans. surely somewhere, in the history of your company, somebody wanted to do right by animals. we hope you don’t become like morningstar farms who, behind our backs, added eggs and whey to formerly vegan products.

    can you keep it vegan?

    bottom line: we love gardein as a product but not necessarily as a company. their packaged goods are incredible, as are all of their retail items. yet gardein is unfortunately focused on the trendy “meat-free at all costs” concept, rather than giving a shit about veganism. we wish they’d stop retweeting “vegan” reviews of their products that are obviously not vegan. we wish it was them (and not us) who requested that both chipotle and yard house cook the vegan products on a separate grill. we wish that their packaging didn’t suggest that people eat fish, dairy and eggs. in general, we wish that they weren’t such a sell out.

    that being said, gardein chicken tenders are now available at costco! and they’re awesome. you know it will be vegan, because you will be making it yourself! go buy it! don’t get me wrong…..I LOVE THIS STUFF. it’s tasty and wonderful. just beware when ordering in restaurants. fear the PR machine which will suck you the fuck in.

    you can find gardein at your following LA costco locations: Van Nuys, Westlake Village, Simi Valley, Los Feliz/LA, Oxnard, Northridge, Palm Desert, Yorba Linda, Goleta, Marina Del Rey, Burbank and Tustin! nommers.

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56 responses to “gardein available at costco: we’re talking mainstream now!” RSS icon

  • Yes, I was one of the poor fuckers who went to Yard House based upon Gardein’s tweeting about vegan menu. I had a bunch of stuff that wasn’t vegan, and had a stomach ache all night.

  • The vegan audience just isn’t large enough to support a mainstream product – companies like Gardein pretty much have to appeal to non-vegans if they hope to keep up sales. Personally, as long as the product itself is vegan, I’m happy to have the choice. It doesn’t affect me if other people wrap theirs in bacon.

  • On the Gardein web site they emphasize the health and environmental benefits of plant-based food without mentioning any animal-rights/animal-cruelty which is normal for a marketing company. People eat vegan food for a lot of different reasons and the marketing people don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable.

    Any serious vegan knows where you can buy vegan caesar and ranch dressing or vegan cheese so their “meal ideas” don’t really offend me. Mainstream omnivores probably don’t care. I think you may be expecting too much from a large corporation to support vegan politics.

    This interview with Kevin Boylan, a founder of Veggie Grill has some good points on bringing vegan food to a mainstream audience.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DT1yYCL6IbA#t=06m50s

    Morningstar is owned by Kellogg’s so you can’t expect much from them.

    (I think Walmart would be even more mainstream than Costco, but I like the Spinal Tap quote.)

  • “we hope you don’t become like morningstar farms who, behind our backs, added eggs and whey to formerly vegan products.”

    This would suck. Morningstar can indeed go fuck themselves, they’re so in love with egg whites. Such a tease.

    As long as the actual food stays vegan, I’m cool with whatever the package says. Gardein is, by far, the best vegan chicken around.

    PS – I saw some Gardein stuff at Whole Foods today that I hadn’t seen before. “Chicken Trio” or something: a stuffed chicken cutlet, sauce, and rice. They had several flavors, like Thai. $4. Looking forward to trying them as brown-bag lunches.

  • Aren’t I just an internet celebrity. I am annoyed that their boasted 25 vegan items was not quite the case. It is more accurate that you could substitute Gardein “beef” or “chicken” to just about any meal.

    QG, I thank you for all of your diligent effort. You have made many new products and restaurants known to me. Having been vegan for approx. 17 years, I do have to ask myself, “exactly how does demanding a dedicated fryer or grill contribute to the alleviation of animal suffering, which is my ultimate goal?” I am forced to answer (though I swear this is not a split personality disorder) “Not much, if anything at all.”

    I understand and respect people’s aversion to using a contaminated grill or utensils, but I don’t view meat as “ickey” or “gross.” I try to remain as pragmatic as possible in my ideology. In this case, I feel that the economy of effort is tipped in the favor of our enemies. At the end of the day, they would love our continuing to waste time on the trivial, rather than facing them full force on issues that matter.

    Supposing we were all “a little more vegan” (if there are degrees of veganism) we would not monetarily support any establishment or subsidiary that serves animal products, as in an economic sense, supporting their business is contributing to animal suffering.

    QG, again, I don’t mean to give you a hard time about this. I think what you do is awesome, but I was made to look like a careless new-jack because it was my retweet, so I thought I should respond. I support 99% of your post. I’m falling asleep as I type. I’ll have to revisit this in the AM.

    JXK

  • Thanks for the detailed post QG, I didn’t know any of that stuff.
    I will be buying this to make vegan dishes at home.
    It gets complicated, trying to know where to draw the line on these things, and like everyone else here I do prefer supporting totally vegan companies and vegan establishments whenever possible for this very reason. It’s not always possible, but when it is, it’s just much simpler and easier on ones’ conscience.

  • I live in Washington State, but I have a Costo literally across the street from me and I am going to check them out tomorrow to see if they carry Gardein. Thanks for the info!

    Btw, I saw your testimonial at the matchmeats.com website and plan on ordering some just because of you! 😛

  • Well I’ve never really posted on QG before but after reading Jason Keller’s post I felt I had to say something.

    “exactly how does demanding a dedicated fryer or grill contribute to the alleviation of animal suffering, which is my ultimate goal?” “Not much, if anything at all.”

    I was absolutely shocked when I read this. It sounds like you’re saying that because a dedicated cooking space doesn’t stop an animal from dying it’s unreasonable to request one. Not all action must be direct action in order to make a difference.

    Here’s something I’ve learned over the years; businesses like this stuff called “money”. Chipotle, Publix, Costco, etc. don’t give a shit about vegans, they don’t give a shit about animal rights, they don’t give a shit about sustainability. What they DO care about is the money people spend in their stores.

    If, one day, I walk into a Chipotle that actually carries gardein meat I will order 3 and stand there wide eyed as I salivate over their sneeze guard. If I knew that they were cooking that meat on a contaminated grill I wouldn’t order it at all. A clean grill isn’t about direct action, it’s about letting the company know that there is a difference between doing it right and doing it half assed. I may not be the type of vegan that pushes my beliefs on others but I AM the type of vegan that expects a meal made with all vegan products to be vegan when it hits my plate.

    The reason we demand clean grills and cooking utensils is because it means more vegans will purchase from them. We get good vegan food, they get more money; it’s win/win. As they see sales increase they realize that there is a demand and often expand their offerings to encourage us to spend more.

    They carry products like gardein because of the vegans that patronize their store and consistently and persistently ask for them to carry it. These stores and restaurants don’t care about our beliefs, all they know is if they carry these products we will spend more MONEY in their stores.

    Though I love gardein products this article sums up my thoughts perfectly. The reason gardein is popular is that vegans have been so active in getting others (including our omnivorous friends) aware of how good it is. So now that gardein is mainstream why do I feel like they’re saying “well we’ve cornered that market (vegans) so let’s focus our resources elsewhere”?

    “Supposing we were all “a little more vegan” (if there are degrees of veganism) we would not monetarily support any establishment or subsidiary that serves animal products, as in an economic sense, supporting their business is contributing to animal suffering.”

    Any time we gain benefit from walking on asphalt, getting a ride in a car, buy/rent a dvd or hard drive we “contribute to animal suffering”. We can’t go tell the government to switch all roads to be vegan friendly, we can’t convince car manufacturers to make every part of their car vegan, and you can’t make a dvd without animal based glue (though blurays are corn based and vegan friendly). We have no voice in those things, THOSE are trivial.

    We have a voice in what we want to see in stores and restaurants. We have a right to ask that it be done right so we don’t become ill from tainted food. These are NOT trival because our voices ACTUALLY CHANGE THINGS.

    You should be thankful there isn’t a ranking system for veganism because in my book you wouldn’t place very high.

  • Yesterday I was so happy when I spotted the Gardein Bulk Chick’n Scallopini at BJ’s (similar to costco) while shopping with my dad. He told me to go get a cart (we had just come in for a few items) and load up, because he saw how happy/excited I got. Ended up getting 6 bags mixed of the Scallopini and Tenders.

    Then I see this today and died a little on the inside. It is similar to the day I saw non-vegan dressings from Follow Your Heart at the store – previously I had thought FYH only made vegenaise and the gourmet cheeze. I had no idea they had a non-vegan restaurant or a line of non-vegan items. Though, for comparison’s sake, I think that’s much worse than what Gardein is doing here.

  • Wow, does Gardein really suggest you eat their product with cheese? That’s just gross.

  • I think it’s great that Gardein are selling their products everywhere, and I personally don’t care how they are served and what they are cooked with providing I have a chance to reject anything that’s contaminated with animal fats (such as by using a shared grill).

    What’s irresponsible, though, is Gardein actively promoting their products as a component of vegan entrees at Yard House and Chipotle.

    I can imagine the pressure that much be on a small company like Gardein to get their product sold, and getting it out into restaurants is an awesome way to sell tons of it. Even if it is mixed with non-vegan things when it reaches the plates of the diners.

    Gardein: I think it’s mighty shitty of you to shine lights on inaccurate tweets and blog posts, yet ignore QG who is trying to be constructive and informative.

  • Hello! :]
    I’m new at the whole Vegan thing and I just wanted to say that I think it’s GREAT that Gardein is even advertising Veganism and having some Vegan products. I also think it’s good for their business to still advertise on how you can eat it if you’re not Vegan. PLUS, when they say “cheese” you can subsitute it for Daiya. Hah♥
    Well, yeah that’s all I have to say. Have a good dayyy. (:

  • how does yard house and chipotle contaminating their products rest on gardein’s shoulders?

  • I read an article in the LA Times (I think it was) where they interviewed someone at Gardein who said the product was trying to appeal to a “flexitarian” lifestyle. I knew then and there that they were full of shit. But their food is so good, I will continue to buy it.

  • how cool it that there are SOOOO MANY vegan products out there…that i can bitch about stuff like this? life is great!

    btw i just wanna make it clear, i really do love all of gardein’s food.

  • If you are going to rely on other people (i.e. mega-corporations) to make your food then you will never know what you are really eating. Who really knows if all of the ingredients in Gardein are totally untouched by animal secretions. If you choose to eat only real foods from the plant world such as fruits, nuts, seeds, vegetables, etc. it’s then quite difficult to be fooled as we all know what a cucumber looks like, and for the most part it contains no mucus from an animal’s body. Go ahead and reply to this with your insane nonsense about how nobody will ever eat this way, many do and more and more are doing it now than before. It’s your choice and the animals’ lives.

  • “It sounds like you’re saying that because a dedicated cooking space doesn’t stop an animal from dying it’s unreasonable to request one.”

    Actually, that’s not what he said at all.

    Anyway, about Gardein… at the end of the day, all this is is some text on the back of a package that no normal person reads. Trust me, we are the only people who regularly read packaging. Does anyone actually make the recipes on bags of tortilla chips, etc.?

  • This really just backed up my theory that vegans are the type of people who need SOMETHING to complain about. In fact, being that type of person contributed greatly to why they went vegan in the first place: gotta have something to stand up against, can’t ever be content.

    Yes, find something to nitpick about the most successful vegan product in history (in the span of, what, a year?).

    Tofurkey may be a word that’s known to more people than Gardein, but there’s usually a joke attached to it.

  • I do agree with Jason that if you’re vegan because u care about animals, then the bottom line in any of your choices should be how it directly affects animals.

    Protecting animals of course starts getting VERY complicated. Its not so simple as just not buying animal products. At some point *every* vegan must draw a line and give up. Do not fool yourself into thinking that you do not contribute to animal deaths, probably in many ways you do not even consider or realize.

    I think its also questionable to call gardein not a company with vegan values. Though it may not be their intention, who’s to say that by advertising cheese on their package that this won’t actually be a boon and eventually cause more people to go vegan? Perhaps it was their openess to omnis that got them into the mainstream. And now that there’s such a great tasting vegan meat out there for all, more people will be inclined to go vegan. Can you really say that you absolutely know that this isn’t the case? I can’t say I know either way. Its certainly possible and not unlikely.

    The vegan lord works in mysterious ways…
    <3

  • Gregalor,

    why take one or two people’s comments and then put all vegans into that box? Why not judge us all separately?

    😉

  • This is for Gregalor,

    I never claimed to know exactly what Jason was saying. I said, “It sounds like” as in “my interpretation of what I read is” so unless you ARE Jason or were talking to him personally then you don’t know what he said either.

    Jason stated that he doesn’t find meat gross and spoke of the aversion other people have towards contaminated grills which implies he doesn’t have that same aversion. I have ZERO problem with that, Jason, and really anyone reading this, is entitled to their own beliefs and I’m all for that. What I do take issue with is the suggestion that complaining in order to get vegan items to be prepared in a vegan manor is of little to no importance (Trivial, his words)

    I don’t believe that to be true. If I’m ordering fake meat it’s because I don’t want normal meat. Cooking them next to each other means that even if I don’t want to I WILL be eating eat. Why? To be complaisant? That’s ridiculous. In the same way a meat eater ordering a steak should expect that his meal isn’t cooked in the same pan as shellfish, I should be able to expect a vegan meat to be contaminant free.

    I stated that I still love gardein products. I’m still buying them and hell I’m eating beefless tips right now! But the point isn’t how good their food is. It’s not even about the worthless text on the back of the package. Eric M made an excellent point that I didn’t consider about this inciting others to move towards veg/vegan

    Spoon stated that he/she (apologies to spoon as I don’t know your gender) became ill because there was an assumption that the menu using vegan meat was totally vegan. Gardein probably should have mentioned that it wasn’t all vegan since they have far more followers that would have seen that.

    The question is that IF (emphasis on the “if”) their focus is no longer on vegans… what would stop them from keeping their product vegan? Morningstar Farms stopped caring about vegans and added egg whites because it was cheaper for them, not because there was an uprising of customers demanding it. I’ve seen several products go from being vegan to adding animal products with no warning and I just don’t want to see this happen to gardein

    Your theory that ” vegans are the type of people who need SOMETHING to complain about” is incredibly ignorant as you single out vegans for something we all do.

    EVERYONE needs something to complain about!

    Gas prices, taxes, heat, cold, war, oil spills, wait times, bad service, slow computer, etc. If you haven’t complained about one of those things on that list in the last 24 hours you’re either dead or in a coma.

    My personal opinion is that vegans believe in change. The vast majority are raised as an omnivore and make the choice to become vegan (though the underlying reasons vary wildly) later in life, we want/need a change. If a store doesn’t carry something we want then we know that if we ask enough they will get it for us. If more people ask they (the business) will see that they are missing out on sales.

    Making your voice heard doesn’t always incite change…
    But staying silent insures that it stays the same.

  • Eventually, once anything gets big enough, it can’t continue personal relationships- from musicians to authors to companies- the way it once did.

    Rather than looking at it as Gardein sold out their vegan audience, I’d rather just appreciate that they were smart enough to do what they did to get to where they are so that one doesn’t have to live in L.A/New York/Seattle to have a good quality vegan meat replacement conveniently available.

    It also doesn’t bother me that the meal suggestions mention dairy. I went from eating meat, to being a vegetarian, to being vegan. It was a slow process, and that’s the way is is for many people. It is difficult to convert people if we can’t engage them on a level they’re familiar with.

    Also, couldn’t this same logic be applied to the restaurants that aren’t 100% vegan, but try to woo vegan customers? Many restaurants featured on this blog are not 100% vegan- especially many of the bars- yet they are lauded for their efforts to provide vegan options. I’ve never heard anyone express concern that their money is going directly towards an establishment that sells animal products. I guess it doesn’t make sense to me to be surprised/disappointed that Gardein has a meal suggestion that mentions dairy, but then be ok with buying vegan tapas at a bar that sells chicken wings.

    I think we all just have our different “lines in the sand”. I can appreciate the frustration, but I don’t really understand it, if that makes sense.

  • Can I just say that I enjoyed reading all of your comments, and quarrygirl, rock on!

  • I really don’t care about whether they’re trying to cater to the vegan community or not. I don’t even really eat Gardein — it’s great but costs too much for me (but if I had more money I’d most definitely buy it all the time)

    The only people that can bring about even MORE change are the meat-eaters, by eating less or no meat. So if this product is somehow catering to meat-eaters then that’s a wonderful thing, because that’s more gardein they’re buying, and less meat.

  • “Trust me, we are the only people who regularly read packaging. Does anyone actually make the recipes on bags of tortilla chips, etc.?”

    Unfortunately Gregalor, I must admit to being a total loser nerd girl who does try those weird suggested recipes (or vegan versions of those recipes rather.)

    I might as well not try them because I’m such a horrible cook that everything comes out tasting terrible anyways.

    I guess, at the end of the day, I’m just glad this kind of product is becoming more and more available. It’s never been this way before, so it’s cool to see it start happening in small steps.

  • “I’ve never heard anyone express concern that their money is going directly towards an establishment that sells animal products. ”

    I’ve seen people debate this quite frequently here in the comment sections under various QG blog entries. Some very heated arguments have taken place actually, along the lines of the honey debates that also happen pretty often.

    People are passionate about their vegan beliefs, and take time to explain/discuss their reasons. It’s kind of cool.

  • “Eventually, once anything gets big enough, it can’t continue personal relationships- from musicians to authors to companies- the way it once did.

    Rather than looking at it as Gardein sold out their vegan audience, I’d rather just appreciate that they were smart enough to do what they did to get to where they are so that one doesn’t have to live in L.A/New York/Seattle to have a good quality vegan meat replacement conveniently available.”

    Exactly. The chicks need to leave the nest some day. Again, it’s completely unprecedented for a vegan product to become so successful so fast. It’s crazy that none of us had so much as heard of Gardein a year ago.

  • Check out their story:

    http://www.gardein.com/about_us.php

    It pretty clear that Yves is doing what he did already with his previous company. Build it up and sell it. This time, much quicker. Unless he already has because this company is expanding quickly.

    Anyways, I became vegan mostly for health reasons and eating processed soy and wheat gluten (ok, fine there’s some quinoa in there too) is probably not that much better the meat equivalent. Putting a giant bag of it in my freezer is not a good idea.

    Thanks for taking the company to task on your blog.

  • Gauri Radha-

    You’re right, I’m sure it has happened, it’s just that I’ve never read such a heated debate in the comments as you have. Granted, I’ve only been reading for about a year, so my experience is admittedly very, very limited. Just to clarify, I wasn’t trying to shame anyone who buys food from establishments that sell animal products, I was mostly just using it as an example of how we all have different expectations/concessions/etc. I agree with you that most of the time the dialogue on this site is interesting and respectful 🙂

  • Cortney, I think I’ve been on this site for less than half a year, actually.

    I just happened to see several such arguments (and I participated in a few myself.) Spirited discussions, we can say 😀

    Anyways, nice talking with you, have a lovely day!!

  • I wouldn’t think they would care how their products were prepare in a restraunt or anywhere but the fact they place non-veg recipes on their packaging is almost scary. It makes me not really trust the company or their products. They could easily put vegan recipes on their packaging. They don’t even have to call them vegan just recipes, since many shy away just from the word.

  • You can’t hold GARDEIN accountable for what a restaurant does with their products.
    Thank goodness they are providing us with vegan options and making their products available to non-vegans, so that they have better, healthier options too. That they give non-vegan recipe options doesn’t mean I have to follow them. It’s my choice as a consumer, just like it’s my choice to be vegan.
    I’ve never read where the company has a strictly vegan agenda. It looks more like a plant-based approach to healthier eating, and thankfully they’ve done so in vegan form.

  • I buy Gardein products at Publix. They have a better shot at prompting meat-eaters to go vegetarian than many of the other products I’ve tried. I would prefer, of course, that they only promote vegan foods, but I will not discourage anyone from buying or selling Gardein products because of the serving suggestions, etc. Here in the real world, we must not bash a product that can help lessen animal suffering. The beefless tips could even convince my father to stop eating beef.

  • Gardein is bringing vegan cuisine to the attention of our mainstream meat-eating society — and while it’s hard to agree with with everything a company does, the fact that Gardein is being sold in Costco, that Oprah is talking about this product, that major companies like Chipotle want to sell it means their goal is to reach the general public. Preaching to the choir does little to help animals. Getting meat-eaters to choose Gardein over animal flesh, on the other had, does make a difference.

  • It is annoying(and odd)that they include non-vegan recipe suggestions on the back of the bag, but I don’t see that as a reason to bash the company or boycott their products. It’s still a victory for animals whenever someone buys a Gardein product instead of the remains of dead, tortured animals.

  • Lucy, I have read this post 3 times and I can’t see anyone calling for a boycott of Gardein.

    I think it’s great to point out the fact that they are promoting dairy and animal products on their packaging. From a vegan company, I would expect higher standards.

  • I have to say, I’m thrilled that Gardein is now being served at Yard House and that you can walk into Costco and get a huge bag of the vegan chicken.

    I also applaud Gardein for getting their products more mainstream. For many people, it makes eating vegan so seem more mainstream, and encourages them to try it. Because in their minds, if places like Chipotle and Yard House are adding it, that means not just fringe vegans are eating it and they can eat it too. And that means less animals consumed.

  • While it’s odd that the packaging is non-vegan, it’s such a huge success for good vegan meat analogs to make their way into places like Costco!

  • We want to thank you for constructively writing about gardein™ on your blog! We appreciate knowing what you like and don’t like about our line of plant-based foods, at retail and at restaurants. Your ongoing support, and that of the vegan community, means a lot to us. Therefore, we do think it’s important to clarify a couple of points given your most recent post.

    First, gardein is committed to bringing healthy and tasty meat-free foods to the market. Our #1 goal is to help people eat better by offering them healthier food choices and to educate everyone about the benefits of incorporating more vegetables and plants into their daily diets. We believe it’s good for our bodies and good for the planet. We are proud that all of our products are vegan certified and will continue to be that way. We have no plans to add meat, egg or dairy ingredients to any of our foods.

    Second, we believe our meat-free foods naturally appeal to vegans, vegetarians and flexitarians alike and can be a healthy addition to anyone’s diet. So, no matter where you are in your journey of exploring plant based foods, we feel that every little step an individual makes to improve his or her diet is a positive one —whether that be for health or environmental reasons or compassion towards animals—the choice is personal and we support it.

    And finally, we are thrilled that more grocery stores are carrying our foods and more restaurants are adding gardein™ to their menus. We want to make eating meat-free as easy and convenient as possible. And, when it comes to our restaurant partners preparing our products, we encourage them to be transparent about ingredients and preparation to ensure consumers know exactly what they are eating. We are excited that more and more restaurants have chosen to add tasty and healthy meat free alternatives to their menus and we applaud their efforts.

    We hope this helps clarify your concerns. If it doesn’t let us know. We always welcome your comments. That’s how we get better as a company. In fact, we encourage everyone to email us feedback about our foods at info@gardenprotein.com. Just write to us, and we’ll be sure to respond.

    Together, we really can make the world a better and healthier place! Even if it is as simple as one bite at a time.

    Sincerely,

    Your friends at gardein™

  • Gardein sidestepped the issue of the suggestions on the bag. Why? Because it’s a pretty ridiculous complaint. How DO you respond to something like that?

    It’s rather presumptuous to judge how vigorously someone else wants to promote a goal like veganism. I’m sure this isn’t the first time most of you have encountered people who DON’T recommend going vegan “cold turkey”. There are plenty who suggest the “wean” approach.

  • I think it’s absolutely ridiculous that A VEGAN company would have packaging telling people to use their products with DAIRY. Gardein avoided answering that, because it can’t be defended. It’s bullshit.

    Dairy, eggs, and fish dressing have no place on the back of a Gardein bag.

  • http://gardein.com/about_us.php

    Show me where it says they’re a “vegan company”. I see a bunch of stuff about eating more plant-based foods, and meatless meats… Nope, nothing about dairy.

    “Vision: our vision is to see gardein™ on menus and dinner plates nationwide”

    Come on, it’s not like they’re tricking you.

  • Gardein isn’t a vegan company anymore? This is so sad. Hate to see that about the dairy. Shame.

  • Is Yyves still vegan? Someone mentioned them earlier in a comment, but I haven’t seen them around in awhile. Also, have you had this smart life stuff? I thought they were vegan, but today at Ralphs I saw they had a fake “honey” chicken dish.

  • Marissa, are you talking about Lightlife? Some of their products are vegan and some are vegetarian with eggs and/or dairy. It’s pretty clearly labeled:
    http://www.lightlife.com/index.jsp
    They were bought by ConAgra in 2000.

    Everything Yves Veggie Cuisine makes is vegan as far as I’ve seen:
    http://www.yvesveggie.com/index.php
    He sold the company to The Hain Celestial Group and you can buy it in most chain grocery stores which is pretty amazing when you consider the barriers involved with getting onto store shelves.

    Yves Potvin’s new company, Gardein, seems like it may be competing with his old one and may grow to be even more successful. I applaud any company that can bring vegan food to Ralphs and Costco. I’ve never even heard of Chipotle or Yard House except for on quarrygirl but I’d consider going there now that I know about them. Gardein even provides private label plant-based protein products for Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods deli, MorningStar (Kellogg’s) MealStarters, and Yves:
    http://www.gardein.com/private_label.php

    Roughly 3% (7 million people) of the US is vegetarian and about 0.5% (1 million) is vegan.
    http://www.vegetariantimes.com/features/archive_of_editorial/667
    Marketing food specifically for vegans is, sadly, not a viable business decision for a large foods company. It’s just too small of a niche market. Marketing healthy food and environmentally conscious food (think Meatless Mondays) is the only way to reach the masses.

    Any purchase should be considered a vote with your dollars. By my standards, as long as all of their products are vegan, their marketing doesn’t bother me and I really don’t care whether people call them a “vegan company”. The benefit outweighs any of the drawbacks.

  • I’m completely behind James E and Courtney.

    Gregalor- They don’t really side step it.
    “Second, we believe our meat-free foods naturally appeal to vegans, vegetarians and flexitarians alike and can be a healthy addition to anyone’s diet. So, no matter where you are in your journey of exploring plant based foods, we feel that every little step an individual makes to improve his or her diet is a positive one —whether that be for health or environmental reasons or compassion towards animals—the choice is personal and we support it. ”

    That paragraph, to me, answers it. I interpret it as “hey, if someone dips our product in blue cheese dressing, it’s better for everyone, than dipping a real chicken wing in.”

    Veganism and vegetarianism isn’t a little club; it’s not a “band I used to call my own.” It’s a complex lifestyle which people are involved with for a slew of reasons. The movement will never reach any sort of mainstream acceptance without a company like Gardein working their way into the places there in. Personally, I’d rather know that a vegan product is available in national chains and people are mixing it with dairy (and ultimately that people are cutting SOME animal products for whatever reason) than keeping it a vegan secret.
    People like my parents (and I’m sure many of our parents) need to be addressed. They’ll probably pick up some Gardein if they see it, to try it out. This is a good thing. And while, I think the dairy suggestions on the side may be “odd,” I ultimately, couldn’t give a crap.

  • I think the issue they really sidestepped is how they’re saying Hey our stuff’s at Yard House so go eat vegan there! all over the internet when in real life you can’t because it’s not. I’m not into fake meat, I prefer plant plants not plant based foods, so it doesn’t really affect me, but that’s the one thing I think gardein’s done wrong here and the one thing they didn’t care to correct.

  • @gregaltor and everybody… The whole point here is that Gardein INTENTIONALLY MISLED people into thinking they would be eating vegan at Yard House, just as they did with Chipotle. See this tweet:

    http://archives.quarrygirl.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Screen-shot-2010-06-12-at-9.59.35-PM-570×263.png

    It’s an OPEN AND SHUT case, and I’m frankly disgusted at their response here. I’ve never seen such corporate marketing bullshit used so badly before, and I’m IN the corporate maketking bullshit business.

    Gardein: poor, poor showing and a total fuck up on social media. You should have quarrygirl run your twitter account. She has more followers than you anyway.

  • Gardein has NO control over what happens to their product once it leaves their hands. They can suggest or even “insist” certain conditions, but unless they’re sending a rep to every location nationwide, they’re just going to have to take the buyers’ word for it.

    They did nothing wrong. Period.

    Spotted_One- I’m in PR/Marketing/etc and, as I’m sure most in our field, do a TON in social networking and see no issue here. They retweeted something from a user going to an establishment to get their product, which they thought was being prepared in a certain way. Am I missing something???

  • Time and time again, it never ceases to amaze me the amount of energy that goes into vegans bad mouthing VEGAN companies. Look, I understand that a lot of you have issues with their product being used by THIRD PARTY companies in a way that is not vegan and for them having some non-vegan serving suggestions on their packaging. But what you’re forgetting here is that they are a business. A business that VEGANS need to not only survive, but we also need their business to appeal to a mass audience of both vegetarians and omnivores alike, and not just us. Would you rather people be purchasing real chicken nuggets instead because this one great vegan product God forbid had a suggestion of serving it with cheese?

    And I don’t think they’re sidestepping anything. Of course they want major chain corporate restaurants to use their product, especially in lieu of REAL ANIMAL PRODUCTS, and I know that each and every one of you would too, so it’s obviously not at the top of their agenda to start coming down on their major chain restaurant customers, and frankly nor should it. That’s how businesses stay in business and flourish and are able to bring a vegan product to the masses. Sure, would I rather hear that all these restaurants are using vegan practices in preparing the items as well? Of course. But the fact that they even carry these products is leaps and freaking bounds above most other places. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and making the world vegan OBVIOUSLY can’t happen over night. But a ton of progress has been made, even if you compare the vegan community to a few short years ago.

    So in closing, before more of this time and energy keeps going into going after the very few vegan companies there are, why not focus on the gazillions of non-vegan companies, and non vegan product carrying restaurants out there instead. There’s a bunch of meat serving establishments endorsed on this website alone, and Quarry that’s not a bash at you at all. This is THE hub for all things vegan restaurant and what you do is incredible, but if a place called “The 8oz Burger Bar” can and will benefit business from getting endorsed here (which it deserves because it has the best vegan burger I’ve ever had, and I would have never went there had it not been for this site), then why should a completely vegan product potentially lose business because of this? This is completely ridiculous.

  • Love your website so much, QG, and I agree with so many of your principles that I hate to have my first comment be negative … but I can’t see what your post is meant to accomplish. It seems to encourage a kind of fundamentalist fringe mentality that can only hurt the vegan cause.

    Forgive my stating the obvious, but to most Americans veganism is an _extreme_ diet that requires considerable sacrifice. To change this perception we need to make really good, easily accessible food, period. Since most Americans are used to fast food and chain restaurants, ‘easily accessible’ food means food available not only in major grocery stores but in Chipotle, Yard House, and, like it or not, McDonald’s, Burger King, Domino’s, and KFC. Gardein is a viable meat alternative that carnivores really like – if it’s widely available at reasonable prices and its health benefits are touted, it has the power to accomplish great things. Attacking it for the venal sins listed in your post will make vegans come off as self-righteous, exceptionalist, and demanding, the exact sort of attitude that will turn off major restaurants and the typical American dieter: we’ll sound like one communist group denouncing another communist group for some failure of materialist orthodoxy, or some religious sect calling another sect heretics for their failure to speak in the proper tongues while handling snakes. Whether we like it or not, we are a minority, and like all minorities, we have to act _better_ than the majority in order to sway them: we have to be more patient, more abiding, more persistent, more inclined to turn the other cheek. If we don’t, we will go nowhere.

    All this isn’t to say that no criticism is valid: I’m all for criticizing Morningstar Farms for actually selling out veganism. But Gardein seems to me to be doing the right thing by acting friendly, inclusive, and welcoming – they’re doing the exact sort of thing we need to do to make more people sympathetic to veganism. If this means a few vegan meals fried in a frying pan with trace residue of meat, so be it. I’ve been a vegan for six years, and I have to breathe in meat every time I walk by a taco truck, eat dinner with my carnivorous family, and feed my obligate carnivore of a cat the taurine he has to eat to keep his bladder from turning to acid. There’s meat in the world, and it’s in my face every damn day, as I’m sure it is in yours. What purpose does it serve to take all our angst out on well-meaning if benighted carnivores who are actually trying to accommodate us? Isn’t the goal to bring them round, rather than segregate ourselves in some sort of vegan dietary shadow world?

    Beyond that, any restaurant that serves meat at all is a restaurant that profits from the slaughter and torture of animals. If you have don’t object to that — and given that you write up all sorts of omnivorous restaurants, I assume you accept it as a fact of life — it seems pretty anal to complain about that meat not being in your pan, unless you have a genuine allergy or sensitivity to trace amounts of meat and dairy, in which case the onus is on you to look after your health and inquire about the restaurant’s food preparation practices.

    I understand the frustration here, but compromise is the reality if we want to make progress – the trick is compromising on as few things as we have to. That non-vegan potential Gardein eater was already going to have that cheese and use that meaty pan: if they get a little Gardein in it, the more’s the better. With some luck, lots of persistence, and a real charm offensive, it’ll take us one step closer to a vegan world.

  • i’d been buying the tenders at costco for a month, went back to get some more last night and they were gone. distraught i went to the customer service desk to inquire. they told me i was crazy and they never carried it. one employee was nice enough to pull up the item number from my receipt and search the costco inventory. apparently costco will no longer been carrying gardein products. it’s no longer in their system at all — and she checked the motherboard system too, not just the store or LA area.

    sooo i went and filled out the “suggestion” forms and i suggest everyone else do the same. these tasty little buggers are just WAY too pricey at ralphs and albertsons. we need them at costco!

  • I emailed Costco about Gardein. The reply said they dropped it because “either it wasn’t selling [low demand] or the manufacturer couldn’t supply enough product [high demand]” However, they won’t tell me which case it was!

    Nothing like giving a product a 2 month trial basis with no mention of it anywhere from Costco or Gardein.

  • I’m with Matvei. Very well put, by the way.

    We also must realize that all of the “dairy” food product suggestions listed on the back of these containers do have popular vegan alternatives most likely available at your nearest big box grocery store.

    So yes, I suppose that is just about as welcoming as a company can get. Which of course you must be, as a for-profit organization. You cannot ONLY appeal to the “radical” end of the broad American diet spectrum. And I do not see where Gardein has actually done anything to alienate the larger vegan community. You buy your traditional sour cream, I’ll get me some Tofutti and we’ll all be happy.

    That said, I enjoy your blog a lot.

  • Fyi, I found this product at Costco today in Naperville, IL.
    I think it’s back!
    I agree that it is disappointing that they don’t have a vegan agenda, but I am grateful for a great taste product that is quick to prepare for nights that I am took tired to cook.

  • Hi,

    I’ve been using gardein for a while now, but I’m breaking out in hives. I’m wondering if there is something in their products that anyone here knows about that could have caused this. I’m making an appointment with an allergist of course, but hoped to go in with some info. I would really hate it if this was the case!

    Thank you


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