Food Entrepreneur CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA. — Years prior to the plant-based boom of the past decade, Crissanne Raymond became known as “the veggie burger lady” in her Virginia community. A chef and owner of a catering business, she had created a patty inspired by her mother’s lentil soup recipe, featuring ingredients such as green lentils, brown rice, spinach, carrots and quinoa.

Friends and family persuaded her to sell the item at farmers markets and nearby restaurants, marking the beginning of NoBull Burger. Twelve years later, the brand is rolling out to Whole Foods Market stores nationwide.

“We remained hyperlocal for a good while,” said Elizabeth Raymond, who co-founded the business with her mother. “Then the category started to blow up, and the Beyond Meats and the Impossibles came around.”

NoBull Burger is positioned as a premium option, “the Rolls-Royce of veggie burgers,” Elizabeth Raymond said, with organic lentils, grains, vegetables, chickpeas and chia seeds. A savory mushroom burger adds shredded white and shiitake mushrooms and roasted garlic. A curry burger has organic coconut milk, caramelized onions and roasted sweet potato. The sundried tomato patty is formulated with Turkish tomatoes, celery seed and onions. Spicy Italian includes roma tomatoes, red and green sweet peppers, fennel seed and a blend of oregano, thyme, basil, rosemary and sage.

The team produced burgers in a commercial kitchen prior to partnering with a contract manufacturer earlier this year.

“We had such a challenging time finding a co-packer that didn’t want to change a major result or ingredient or process … and we didn’t want to compromise,” Elizabeth Raymond said. “We spent years looking … and just transitioned to a partner that’s out in Colorado and … they are committed to the product and putting it out to our standards.”

The market for meat alternatives has expanded significantly in recent years. Sales of plant-based foods in the United States reached $8 billion last year, according to the Good Food Institute and Plant Based Foods Association. Plant-based meat sales held firm at $1.4 billion in 2022, following record growth two years earlier.

While the likes of Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods appear to be sliding out of favor from pandemic peaks, products with simple, recognizable ingredients and minimal processing are poised to win among scrutinizing shoppers, Elizabeth Raymond said.

“For us, we’ve seen a lot of success in regional grocery chains in the natural and organic space,” she said. “It’s been a wild journey going from a regional brand to a national presence and all that that entails.”

 To navigate its next phase of growth, NoBull Burger recently added a fractional chief executive officer. Joanna Hargus is a strategic brand consultant who previously held marketing and leadership roles at General Mills, most recently as business unit director for nutrition snacks brands including Larabar, Fiber One, Epic Provisions and Ratio.

The brand also is introducing new packaging designed to highlight the wholesome ingredients in each burger and stand out among other meatless offerings in the freezer case.

As grilling season approaches, the founders of NoBull Burger are planning promotions and sampling opportunities to build awareness. Eventually, the brand may expand beyond burgers, Elizabeth Raymond said, while “keeping it to our core values of 100% plants, 0% bull.”

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