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Rebellyous Foods, a New Take on Meatless Alternatives

Sharon Palmer

Meatless is the new “black”! Yes, veggie burgers are chic, and the variety of meat alternatives in supermarkets and restaurants is surging. It’ a great time to be veggie! You can find meat-free products ranging from burgers and bacon to deli slices and fish. Why are faux meat products trending? Millions of people are trying to eat more plant-based foods and fewer animal-based foods because they want to have a lighter impact on the environment, avoid antibiotics and hormones in their food, and prevent animal cruelty.

In particular, the plant-based movement is increasingly popular in food service settings, such as schools, universities, hospitals, restaurants, and cafeterias. Yet, it’s not always easy for foodservice operations with limited time, equipment, budgets, and trained staff to create delicious plant-based options. And that’s were Rebellyous Foods comes in. They are on a mission to provide greater access to meat alternatives in food service settings.

That’s why I’m so excited to chat with Kristie Middleton, Vice President of Rebellyous Foods, all about how her company can enhance plant-based diets. Kristi is a leader in the plant-based movement, having worked for the Humane Society and written the book MeatLess: Transform the Way You Eat and Live—One Meal at a Time. Learn more about how she and Rebellyous Foods are helping to put plant-forward options on more menus across the country in our interview. 

Kristie Middleton, Rebellyous Foods


Interview: Rebellyous Foods, Bringing Plant-Based Options to the Country, with Kristie Middleton

Sharon: What inspired you to help create this company?

Kristie: I’ve spent my career working with hospitals and schools to get healthier options to some of the people who need them the most. I’ve witnessed incredible culinary teams that want nothing more than to serve health-promoting food but have to operate within systems with incredibly tight budgets and have no time for special preparation or finicky food. I saw the need for affordable food that fits directly into these kitchens’ current workflow and served the end consumer with the nutrition they needed.

Sharon: What made you want to switch to a plant-based diet?

Kristie: There are few things we do in our lives that have as big an impact on so many other things as what we eat. It impacts our health, the planet, workers, and animals. I made the decision to go plant-based for ethical reasons. I care about reducing animal suffering. Every second 285 animals are slaughtered in the U.S. alone, and they endure unimaginable suffering before slaughter. People who eat the Standard American Diet heavy in meat and animal products are dying of chronic, preventable diseases like heart disease, cancer, diabetes. These are some of the leading killers in the U.S. and have been linked to our diets heavy in animal-based foods. And animal agribusiness is a large greenhouse gas emitter which is leading to global warming and irreversible damage to our planet and also depletes precious natural resources. Reducing meat and dairy consumption can help reduce animal suffering, lighten our eco-footprint, and improve our health. I’m optimistic though, because it seems eating plant-based is becoming more popular than ever.

Sharon: Plant-based alternatives are usually more expensive than animal products, how did you make your products so affordable?

Kristie: At Rebellyous, our goal is to make plant-based meat affordable and accessible for all. To make that a reality, we had to get smart about how we make our food. Right now, most plant-based meat companies make their products using machinery from the meat industry. These machines may work well for making meat, but they’re not so well-suited for making plant-based meat. This makes the process slow, wasteful, and expensive. We’re re-designing the way plant-based meat is made. Our process is more efficient, which makes it much more cost-effective, and we pass those cost-savings along!

Sharon: What type of ingredients are used to make your product similar to meat products?

Kristie: We wanted to make our products nutritionally superior to some of the most popular chicken products on the market, and without compromising on taste. We know people don’t often pick chicken nuggets for health, but instead for taste and convenience. So, we couldn’t let either of those things slip in our quest to build a better nugget. To make it happen, we relied heavily on wheat protein and legumes to deliver a complete amino acid profile, while sticking to a traditional cornmeal and wheat breading. Through our mindful approach to both ingredients and processing, we’ve created an end product that tastes just like the comfort food we crave, but happens to have less sodium, less saturated fat, no antibiotics, hormones, cholesterol, and way more fiber.

Sharon: Where are consumers able to find Rebellyous food products and do you plan on expanding the range of where they are sold?

Kristie: Our nuggets are on the menu in a number of restaurants and corporate cafeterias in the Pacific Northwest and can also be found in the cafeteria of multiple Swedish Hospital locations, the largest nonprofit healthcare provider in Seattle. But we’re just getting started! We’re scaling up and our goal is to be as widely available as any chicken nugget, chicken strip, or chicken patty.

Sharon: What impact do you think your company has on the trend of plant-based diets? Do you think this will inspire more people to make the switch to a plant-based diet?

Kristie: We think plant-based eating should be easy, delicious, and never, never about deprivation.

Rebellyous is a part of the community of people and companies making this possible. By bringing affordable, nutrient-dense, plant-based options into new markets, we’re making plant-based eating more accessible to everyone, not just well-to-do trend-chasers. With more and more options out there, plant-forward diets can become more than a trend, and more like the norm.

Sharon: Your company has partnerships with different school districts to implement Meatless Monday, what impact do you think this has on children’s mindsets about eating healthy?

Kristie: In my previous role with the Humane Society of the United States we partnered with school districts to start Meatless Monday and similar programs. At Rebellyous, we’re just getting started. It’s critical that we help kids understand, from the time they’re young, that what they eat has an impact on their health and the world around us. I believe that it’s not just important that we give kids options that are tasty and familiar, yet better for them, but it’s our responsibility. I’m thrilled that Rebellyous is making that possible!

About Kristie Middleon

Kristie Middleton is vice president of business development for Rebellyous Foods and the author of MeatLess: Transform the Way You Eat and Live—One Meal at a Time. Prior to joining Rebellyous, Kristie was Managing Director of Farm Animal Protection at the Humane Society of the United States, where she built and led a team of foodservice professionals working with foodservice management corporations and institutions across the U.S. to help them reduce meat purchases and incorporate more plant-based options into their menus. Kristie has partnered with the nation’s biggest school districts including Los Angeles, Detroit, and Boston and some of the world’s largest food companies to implement plant-based initiatives such as Meatless Monday.

Written by Rachel Velez, Dietetic Intern, with Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN

This post is not sponsored.

Learn about my previous interview with Kristie about her book here.

For other interviews with plant-based movers and shakers, check out the following:

How to Help Prevent Breast Cancer with Diet, with Dr. Funk
Ashley Parker Angel, Co-Founder of High Level
Joel Canada, MALK

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