Whole Foods Is Launching Vegan Meat That's Good for Your Gut
Prime Roots ready meals are now available at select Whole Foods. | Prime Roots

Vegan meat company Prime Roots has launched a range of ready-meals at Whole Foods featuring a plant-based meat that’s good for your gut biome.

The American multinational chain now stocks plant-based ready-meals produced by Prime Roots at select Bay Area locations. The venture-backed, women-led startup’s popular meals include vegan Bacon Mac and Cheese, Bok Choy Soba, Thai Lemongrass Beef, and Hawaiian Shoyu Chicken.

Whole Foods will stock the range in the refrigerated and prepared food deli sections. A limited selection of meals and plant-based meats will also be available from Prime Roots’ website. The launch follows the immediately sold-out introduction of vegan bacon earlier this year.

“We are delighted to give our community and consumers a convenient delicious way to experience the superior quality and taste of Prime Roots meats and seafoods,” said Prime Roots co-founder and CEO, Kimberlie Le.

Prime Roots’ plant-based meat—including bacon, chicken, and beef—uses koji, a high-protein fungus found in some East Asian cuisine. Koji is particularly common in certain Japanese dishes and drinks such as sake, soy sauce, and miso. It contains B vitamins, minerals such as magnesium, selenium, zinc, and iron, and prebiotic fiber and enzymes to aid digestion.

Le, a scientist and former course instructor on Environmental Sustainability at UC Berkeley, chose the umami-flavored ingredient for its taste, texture, and sustainability.

Prime Roots’ first product, a vegan salmon burger, contained both significant protein and omega-3 fatty acids, just like fish. The company regularly changes its selection of products based on seasonal ingredients, which are frequently healthier, tastier, and better for the planet.

“We are reimagining meat for people and the planet and excited to have mission-aligned partners including Whole Foods on our journey to making a more sustainable food system,” said Le.

Whole Foods Is Launching Vegan Meat That's Good for Your Gut
Prime Roots plant-based meat is made from koji, the same ingredient used to make miso and soy sauce.

The Future of Vegan Protein

Koji is popular with chefs in Michelin Starred kitchens for fermentation, aging meat, and other techniques. Typically, traditional koji combines cooked rice and/or soybeans with Aspergillus Oryzae, the fermentation culture itself. But instead of incorporating aspergillus to aid the fermentation of another plant species, Prime Roots is brewing and collecting the fungus itself.

As a result, koji fungus requires minimal processing, and all Prime Roots products are soy, gluten, and GMO-free. It contains more protein than meat and all of the same amino acids. The company grows and harvests all of its koji locally in Oakland, California.

As the plant-based protein market is continuing to grow, ingredients are becoming more varied. And there is an increased emphasis on finding the most nutritious, sustainable, and effective ways to produce plant protein. Including ingredients.

Brands including Beyond Meat and Sproud currently use pea protein for its sustainability and high protein content. While JUST’s popular vegan egg products use the mung bean, an ancient and versatile legume. UK-based brand Quorn uses mycoprotein, which contains both significant protein and fiber.

Experts predict that the global vegan meat market could be worth a significant $6.5 billion by 2026. According to a report by Allied Analytics LLP, the global vegan food market, in general, could reach $31.4 billion also by the year 2026. UBS analysts predict that the U.S. vegan protein market alone could reach $85 billion by 2030.

Prime Roots—formerly known as Terramino Foodsis backed by the Collaborative Fund, which previously invested in plant-based protein producers Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods. True Ventures, which invested in Blue Bottle Coffee and Sweetgreen, also backs the company.