Sonoma County entrepreneurs close to capturing plant-based food growth


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While Amy’s and Miyoko’s have received a lot of attention, other small producers are also creating a niche in their product categories with an emphasis on premium products. Among them, Renegade Food, based in Berkeley but producing its deli in Petaluma; and Santa Rosa’s Wildbrine, which has expanded into its Wildcreamery to offer plant-based cream cheese and sour cream products. The effort for these manufacturers is to make a premium product in categories similar to what local winemakers have done with wine.

“We really had this interest in plant-based dairy products. It’s just a huge opportunity with double and triple digit growth and with some of the innovation we can bring, ”said Chris Glab, co-owner of Wildbrine and Wildcreamery.

Like others, Glab said Sonoma County is well positioned to become a hub of the plant-based food movement given the reputation it can build on. This centers specifically on agriculture as the region decades ago was a stronghold of prunes and apples that gave way to more profitable wine grapes. Cannabis also emerged with legalization. Some even added the “Sonoma” label to their business name to highlight the region’s reputation. world.

“You have a very food sensitive community with great restaurants, great fresh produce and innovative products,” Glab said. “You have an adventurous community. “

The movement can also be seen in supermarket aisles, such as at Oliver’s Market where Beyond Meat offers four of the 20 most popular natural frozen foods, said Dustin Canter, health food buyer for the local grocer.

“It has become an overwhelming category to look at with such a high volume of innovation,” Canter said. He echoed others, saying that with more entries in categories, the quality of the product can range from those with questionable ingredients to others who “really focus on making a product. clean with a list of ingredients that even the strictest label checker would be proud to eat.

Another important area for growth is catering. Amy’s has led the way with its popular drive-through restaurants that offer quick and casual dining from a vegetarian and vegan menu. It has three restaurants, including the one in Rohnert Park, where, on the day it opened, it had long lines of customers. The company will open a new drive-thru in Roseville next month and one in Orange County next year as part of its plan to have at least 25 restaurants over the next five years, Berliner said.

“You go to Los Angeles and there are so many vegetarian and vegan restaurants. Unsurprisingly, there aren’t that many here, ”he said.

But this is constantly changing. One notable change: Vineyard tasting room operators and sommeliers are realizing that there is a growing clientele looking for plant-based food options with their food and wine pairings. For example, Domaine Carneros in Napa County offers Miyoko’s vegan cheese products for its tasting menu. Migration Winery will host its first vegan winemaker’s dinner with Schinner in March, said Alison Kilmer, a consultant for the local plant-based food industry who participates in the vegan events as part of her Wine Country 2.0 campaign.

“There is a big push out there around the world for this movement,” Kilmer said. “This is what our wine hotel industry really needs to prepare for. “

The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa hosted its first vegan winemaker’s dinner this year with a menu that included dishes such as a Mendocino County chenin blanc accompanied by maple glazed heirloom carrots, green garlic tofu , dukkah spice and crispy quinoa. The event was a success and he plans to do so in the future given the growing interest, especially from out-of-town visitors, said Brian Casey, Director of Beverages and Sommelier of the property.

“Together with the diners, they will actually plan their vacations around places where they can go and feel comfortable eating. They do a lot of investigative work up front to find out if there will be restaurants where they have herbal choices, ”Casey said.

One aspect of this trend would be to change the nature of agriculture. Schinner, in particular, has been a strong animal welfare advocate for a move away from the meat and dairy industry and earlier this year won a lawsuit that will allow her to continue using product-centric phrases. dairy in advertising his business. She also donated an olive branch as part of a program where Miyoko will help dairy farmers switch to crops to be part of her company’s supply chain. In Sonoma County, milk was worth $ 127 million for 2019, or about 13% in total, while cattle and poultry were $ 74 million, or nearly 8% of the total, according to the department. county agriculture.

“We don’t need to be the threat. We can be part of the solution, ”she said.

But Casey has already noted that there are local vegetable farms that have made a name for themselves as part of ingredients for high-end kitchen that can serve as a model, like Flatbed Farm in Glen Ellen and Green String Farm in Petaluma.

“The cellars are in the perfect place. As you visit the vineyards, you walk past these organic gardens, ”he said.

You can contact Editor-in-Chief Bill Swindell at 707-521-5223 or [email protected] On Twitter @BillSwindell.

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About Michael Brafford

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