CASCO — A local company that makes vegan, plant-based protein products is looking to beef up its operation — without using any meat.
Freshiez, which sells several meatless products such as burger patties and taco crumbles, is currently a one-man show in Casco run by founder Wes Acker.
Acker said he uses a variety of plants and vegetables including mushrooms, black beans, onions, and potatoes in the products he supplies to about 20 different businesses.
He is looking to build on his current list of clients — which he said includes Goodlife Market in Raymond, Kindred Farms Market and Bakery in Casco, the Portland Food Coop, the Sunday River ski resort, and Portland restaurant Nosh – with the creation of a “meatless butcher box” subscription that people can order online and have delivered to their door.
The butcher boxes will include 16 portions of “heat-n-eat” plant-based proteins, including the burger patties, taco crumbles and chili, along with specials such as veggie sausage, sliders and jerky. The regular price for a box is $129 and 7-portion sampler boxes are available for $79. Shipping — including the cost of dry ice and the insulated box — are free.
Acker says he has people around the country interested in Freshiez products, and that the boxes will allow him to customize some of his offerings.
“It draws a very niche clientele,” Acker said.
The initiative is part of Acker’s effort to move the business out of his home in Casco and establish a meatless butcher shop in the area — part of a relatively small but growing nationwide trend of butcher shops that don’t actually sell meat.
“I want to be the first certified organic meatless butcher shop,” Acker said, speculating that any future brick and mortar location would likely be in the Portland area based on his clientele.
Acker hopes to expand his customer base as well and is launching a Kickstarter campaign where people can pre-order the meatless butcher boxes. The stated goal of the campaign page, which goes live on April 17, is $15,000.
He first got the business going last spring, and saw a spike in interest after the 2017 Portland Food Festival.
“People just started coming to me,” Acker said. “Business soared — instantly.”
One of his early clients was Portland restaurateur Jason Loring, who added the Freshiez burger to the menu at Nosh.
“It was kind of a no-brainer,” Loring said about adding the vegan patty at the restaurant know for it’s burgers. “It’s a really tasty product.”
Acker, 38, is a chef by trade and a graduate of Lake Region High School. He spent two years in the vocational center’s culinary program, and went on to a culinary apprenticeship at the Balsams Resort in New Hampshire before working in numerous restaurants and eventually owning a pasta making business.
His new business venture is also a personal one. He became a vegetarian about two years ago and now keeps a vegan diet – which means no animal products.
“It was a really difficult transition,” Acker said about his move away from meat, which left him looking for different options when it came to vegan food.
“I knew I could make a better tasting, quality product,” he said.
“I pursued it and threw everything I have into it,” he continued. “I felt like, I can make it easier for people to eat healthier”
Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.
Wes Acker is the founder of Freshiez, a Casco company that makes vegan, plant-based protein products.