What time is it? SUMMERTIME! It’s about to get REAL juicy with day-long chillin’ and sumptuous grilling! An eagerly anticipated time of year when we gather with friends and family to enjoy the sunny outdoors with delicious eats. But as we collectively begin to evaluate the impact that our food choices have on the planet, a common misconception arises. Fear of needing to sacrifice tasty favorites creeps on us, accompanied by the dread of missing out on joyous traditions. Fear not! The revolutionary team at Juicy Marbles is here to prove otherwise! With the new era of “meat” on the horizon, the company is guided by a fundamental belief– “it is time for all of us to fire up our grill (or induction plate) and begin sizzling juicy plant steaks, instead of our precious, sexy planet.” In this interview with VEGWORLD, Juicy Marbles’ Co-Founder and CBO, Vladimir Mićković, gives us the inside scoop and juicy deets about the company’s mission, vision, and values.
VW: What sparked the idea to create plant-based filet mignon instead of going the conventional route with burgers, sausages, nuggets, etc.?
VM: We wanted to create meats with which home and professional chefs alike can create new and exciting plant-based dishes that were previously not possible with burgers, sausages, etc. We wanted to enrich the plant-based meat category and expand its versatility. Also, we looked at the world and wondered what would annoy people the most right now. The obvious answer was a “plant-based filet mignon,” and I think we accomplished our goal with that!
VW: That’s a fun way to go about it! How challenging was the R&D process? Any noteworthy lessons you learned for future creations?
VM: It was quite a challenge, as there was no existing technology or infrastructure for whole cuts. If you want to make burgers, you can buy a plug-n-play setup and go. For whole cuts, we had to make mechanical and food engineering solutions that were not yet present on the market.
VW: In your opinion, where can the plant-based protein space use more innovation?
VM: I’m hoping to see more whole cuts and fewer nuggets in the future. Diversity is crucial!
VW: Why did you decide on the “meat leak” strategy to get your product into customers’ hands?
VM: Our primary goal was to do a massive round of gathering feedback and learning the ways of the market. Before the “meat drops”’ we did some user testing but were confined to smaller rounds and mostly local, and potentially biased audiences. With the drops, we sent our product all over Europe and US and crossed our fingers. As a result, we not only have invaluable, constructive feedback, but also felt the wrath of supply chain issues first-hand. This experience helped us remove unnecessary layers of naïveté. However, this won’t be our long-term strategy.
VW: How often do you schedule these limited releases of your product?
VM: We do these once per month. The first one sold out in 24 hours, the second in 8 hours, and the third in 2 hours! I love seeing that we have several repeat purchases, and not just new curious flavor explorers.
VW: How amazing! What has the reception been like and how are you incorporating feedback into the final product?
VM: Overall the reception has been fantastic, far beyond our expectations. We knew the product is not a direct replica of the filet mignon, but often people will judge plant-based products in direct comparison, so there was a fear that this might spark a redundant conversation about “how plant-based is not like animal meat.” Luckily, most people bypassed the 1:1 comparison, took our meats, and got creative! People whipped up French, Jamaican, American, and so many more recipes from diverse cuisines! It was inspiring to see home chefs taking it to an entirely different level and showing us the potential.
As for the feedback incorporation, we took the most commonly occurring comments and made small task-force teams to address those elements that need the most work. The product hitting retail shelves will be finessed by constructive feedback.
VW: Have you conducted any blind taste tests?
VM: We have not done those. In my opinion, that approach does more damage than good, even if you “fool” people. It creates the precedent that plant-based meat will only become “worthy” if it’s identical to its animal counterpart. But seeing how often those who eat animal-based meat claim that our meats are better than their animal meat, we feel that the product doesn’t necessarily have to be the same to become a staple in one’s diet. We aren’t too obsessed with creating a replica. Rather, we are focusing on making a nutritionally functional and sensorial hedonistic product, which can integrate into a healthy, diverse, delicious diet.
VW: What is your favorite creation with the Juicy Marbles filet mignon?
VM: Honestly, a huge wooden board stacked with smoked filet strips and covered in finishing salt, alongside a table of many tapas. It was a nostalgic treat and took me back to my old, worry-free days.
VW: Do you envision more companies joining Juicy Marbles in filling niche voids in the plant-protein space?
VM: Of course, and I can’t wait!
VW: Give us your elevator pitch! With grilling season upon us, why should folks get their hands on Juicy Marbles?
VM: Off the top of my head and without being too “salesman-like,” here are my two cents. Juicy Marbles offers an easy way to add ridiculously tender meat to your portfolio of home cooking. And if having fierce, philosophical debates around your grill is your jam, look no further than Juicy Marbles!
VW: Sounds like a winning pitch! So, when can customers find these products in grocery stores or restaurants?
VM: If supply chain gods are merciful, we hope to expand our reach by the end of this year.
VW: Are there any exciting plans in the pipeline? What can our followers expect next from Juicy Marbles?
VM: Oh yes, it’s a big surprise, so stay tuned!
VW: We are definitely expecting a pleasant surprise from the Juicy Marbles team! Looking ahead as you continue to grow, how do you see your mission for the company evolving?
VM: Besides becoming a hub for creating amazing, surreal cuts of meat with plants, I hope Juicy Marbles will become a platform for good. Good food, planting trees, creating art, being kind, sharing laughs, spreading joy and positivity….that kind of good stuff!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shriya is an Animal Rights activist, VEGWORLD writer, and Founder of Nourish by Shriya– her Vegan Hospitality Consulting Service that helps businesses attract the growing plant-based community. She is a mentor with Animal Activism Mentorship, enjoys volunteering at rescued Animal Sanctuaries, and lives in Chicago with her pooch, Halley.
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