How Prime Roots Wants To Change The Culture Of Plant-Based Meat

There's no question that the popularity of mock meats has been on the rise. Indeed, consumers are flocking to buy vegan meat alternatives for a variety of reasons, whether it be ethics, health, sustainability, or simply personal taste. A recent survey even found that 65% of Americans had recently eaten plant-based meat, with over 20% of those people eating mock meat daily or weekly. Part of that intake is due to the rise in availability. Walk into any grocery store these days and you're sure to find a variety of plant-based burgers, faux nuggets, fake bacon, and more. 

Most of these plant-based meat alternatives on the market are made from soy or gluten, but some consumers are critical of these ingredients for health and environmental reasons and are calling for more accountability from plant-based meat companies. Enter Prime Roots. Founded in 2017 by Kimberlie Le and Joshua Nixon, the company is looking to change how Americans think about meat with the use of a unique — and ancient — ingredient.

What is koji?

Prime Roots' meat is primarily made from koji, an essential mold used in lots of popular foods like miso, soy sauce, and sake. The fungus is cultivated on grains like rice or barley and can have a variety of flavor profiles and uses. Some coffee roasters have even been known to incorporate koji into their coffee fermentation process for a rich umami flavor.

On top of making a meat product that's free of animal ingredients and potentially problematic crops, Prime Roots also aims to normalize plant-based meat as just, well, meat. Both Kimberlie Le and Joshua Nixon are self-proclaimed meat eaters who love the texture and flavor of animal protein but also love their planet and want to help protect it. So far, they're trying to achieve that by offering the products most omnivores love, from ham and turkey to bacon and koji charcuterie products like salami. By framing animal-free meat as normal meat, the Prime Roots founders hope to help eliminate consumer hesitancy around plant-based proteins, though only time will tell if their mission will be a success.