I reached out to my friend Andrea (who happens to be engaged to the fella behind Phoney Baloney) to see if they’d be interested in doing an interview for the site and they pleasantly agreed! I’m beyond stoked to be able to put this interview out there. I love Kyle‘s responses to my questions. They’re clearly thought out and I appreciate that so much. As you’ll see in the interview I tried making coconut bacon once and just hated it. I almost swore it off until I decided to try Phoney Baloney. I was sold after that my friends! Check out the interview below and head over to the recipe section for a killer alfredo pasta dish using Phoney Baloney.
What motivated you to start Phoney Baloney?
Well, pretty much since I became vegan 12 or so years ago I had an idea of opening a vegan sandwich shop that was affordable and delicious. My friend Brian and I actually came up with the name back in 2003. It was 2012 before I actually opened the shop, and it only lasted 6 months, but the beauty of closing was that it brought about this Coconut Bacon business, which is far more robust and has reached many more people than I ever would have been able to with the sandwich shop. But I guess in terms of pure motivation, it was the desire to see something come to the market that was missing and desperately needed.
I tried making coconut bacon once and I hated it. It tasted too much like coconut. So, what’s your process like, just an overview, for making PB? You guys nailed it.
First, we make it in very large batches with commercial equipment, which helps with consistency. The whole process is just the right marinade and the right baking time and temperatures. There are a couple things we do to make ours better than most homemade versions, but those things will have to remain trade secrets for now. ☺
I really dig your packaging. Who designed that?
Natalie Silva out of Houston, TX. She’s crazy talented and really easy to work with. I do some minor design work myself, but when it comes to something serious I know when to step out of the way and let someone better handle it.
How’d you come up with the name, Phoney Baloney?
I think it’s just a fun old saying that I thought would be a great name for a company ever since I became vegetarian way back in the day. I can remember watching baseball as a kid and when the umpire made a bad call my Dad would yell out “Aahhh, phony bologna!!!”
What’s the future look like for Phoney Baloney? Your indiegogo.com campaign was a success, which is awesome, and that helped you get the new flavors out on the market. I’m guessing it also helped you get into some more stores (online or brick & mortar) around the country?
The future vision for Phoney Baloney’s is constantly evolving. Andrea and I talk about it every day. We have some really fun ideas for new products, but not everything that is a great idea can be produced commercially at a reasonable price. We just launched in Germany with Veganz, which is an amazing all-vegan grocery chain over there, so we’re really excited about that. New products, more retailers, and further international growth are the best I can do to describe the future. Grocery is a seriously tough business.
I recently read about White Castle testing out a veggie burger. Let’s say a White Castle, or Taco Bell, or, hell, McDonald’s came to PB and said, “We’re making this vegan product and we want to use your coconut bacon as an ingredient!” Would you say yes?
Of course we would say yes! The unfortunate fact about capitalism is that change only happens in business when it makes sense financially. Any large chains trying vegan options out only mean they see it as a possible profit center, and that’s great. When vegan options are added at these places, if they’re supported, they’ll be promoted and increased. That only means a larger part of their budget will be going to cruelty free food and a smaller portion going to slaughtered animals. I can’t believe the backlash So Delicious just got for agreeing to an acquisition by White Wave. Firstly, White Wave has made non-dairy milks outrageously popular with Silk, to the point where millions of people who would never consider veganism are now not consuming dairy milks. Secondly, this is a sign (and not even remotely close to the first) that the market likes the idea of vegan companies and sees them as a means of growth. The entire grocery industry has some limit, and as a whole doesn’t grow much, which means the more promoted and expanded vegan foods are, the less promoted, expanded and consumed non-vegan foods are, meaning less dead and tortured animals.
What’s your favorite thing to make with Phoney Baloney? I’m a big fan of it on top of a bagel with avocado & hot sauce.
That’s a tough one. Your idea is a perfect one. If you combine it with avocado, or vegan ranch, or vegan cheddar… any of those combos are hard to beat. I’m sure Unhealthy Vegan would say “Why not combine them all?!?”
I’m still a huge fan of using it in a BLTA sandwich. That’s where the product came from, so I have a special spot in my belly for those.
What do you envision, or think will happen, in the near future of veganism/animal rights?
It’s hard to say. There’s clearly a huge amount of progress happening, between education about food and legislation, etc. The only real problem I see is that the most powerful statement moving people towards veganism right now is from a health standpoint… i.e. weight loss, Engine 2, etc. While it doesn’t matter to me what way someone comes to veganism, simply promoting it as a health subject is dangerous, because as soon as something with any health promises that isn’t vegan picks up steam, we lose vegans. Just look at what’s happening with the Paelo craze. Those people are obviously uneducated and/or uninformed, but it’s all about weight loss/control to them. The bottom line is that veganism is the most effective way to deal with personal health AS WELL AS the well-being of animals and the destruction of the environment, along with hunger issues. All those points need to be emphasized at all times.
That’s the problem I see with the vegans who make it evil for a vegan product to be made by a large corporation or those who will make a fuss with new vegans over honey or bone char sugar or palm oil or GMO soy (which is seriously in like ZERO vegan products, by the way). While those are issues that do matter, squeezing someone who is a new vegan or just considering veganism is going to derail their good intentions. I think that’s why the whole “vegan for health” or “plant-based” movement is the most impactful at the moment.
I also think that we seriously need to amp up the efforts to promote veganism as an effective means of mitigating environmental destruction. Fracking, global warming, alternative energy… these are such humungous hot button topics right now but most of their biggest advocates are still eating animal products, which is totally ass backwards!
Lastly, we need to educate the youth and allow them to experience the truth about these issues early on… and in a kid-friendly way. I love it when children’s shows or movies have themes about animals/animal rights. It’s such a great way to connect with these kids on major issues in a way that doesn’t scare them to death. Let’s face it, there are some people living right now who are going to think God created animals to be eaten for the rest of their lives, but they’re all going to die off at some point. If we properly educate the younger generations, we’ll eventually get to a point as a civilization where everyone is more informed and can’t ignore the tremendous issues associated with not being vegan.
That’s all folks! Thanks so much Kyle & Andrea!
Now go buy some bacon kids!