How did you come up with Freakin’ Vegan?
Kurt: My brother is my partner. We came from an Italian family so we grew up cooking a lot. Somewhere in the mid 2000s, I came up with the idea for a vegan cafe. We were going to open a little vegan take out place. Somewhere along, maybe two years ago, 2013, I decided to become completely vegan. When I became completely vegan, I realized very quickly that it became difficult to feed yourself easily unless you want to do a lot of cooking. When you go to the supermarket, it’s actually a big jump to go from being a vegetarian to being completely vegan. Everything has eggs or dairy in it. I decided what the vegans needed was a convenient food product they could buy that they could heat up and eat quickly.
How do you choose where you sell your products?
Kurt:We try to look for places that appeal to our specific demographic. I try to look for juice bars, places that are concerned about health. Places where vegetarians or vegans might purchase their food. Any place where there's organic produce. Any place where people are concerned with their health and well being. Vegetarians and vegans are very conscientious of their health.
What’s your best seller?
Kurt: Depends where it’s being sold. We do vegetarian events where we sell our products hot and ready to eat. When we do those live events the cheesesteak empanada sell more than the others by about 20%. It’s more of a novelty for people who are trying not to eat meat. People like to try a new version of an American classic. Sweet corn is our biggest seller online.
What’s your personal favorite product that you make?
Kurt: I’m not supposed to choose between the empanadas because it’s like choosing between your children, but the broccoli and cheese empanada is my personal favorite.
Do you find that you cater to other people besides vegans?
Kurt: Yeah, you know our company philosophy plays into that very thing. Becoming a vegan, you get very involved in the philosophy of making sure that animals aren’t harmed. And it’s easy to get into debates with people who aren’t of that mindset, but we didn’t want to get preachy. We wanted to make our products accessible to everyone. If you can win over people who eat meat and show them that you have a food that’s delicious that they can eat you’ll bring more people over to the side of animal-friendly foods. We basically gear everything towards making our food delicious for everyone. At these vegan events, people bring their friends who eat meat to try stuff and we have gotten a positive response from people who eat meat. Even the cheesesteak, people say they would eat it on a regular basis. Food is food. All we’re basically doing is eliminating the animal products from our food and making sure it’s delicious.
Where do you see Freakin’ Vegan going in the future?
Kurt: We’ve had a very particular goal in mind. I want to get our convenient vegan food products into all the chain stores. I’d like to get into Whole Foods, Shop Rite, PathMark, everywhere that they sell vegetarian and vegan foods and products.
What has been the best reward out of all of this?
Kurt: Working with my brother has been a great thing. He’s a very hard worker. We used to get together on Easter to cook for our family. It was one of our favorite days of the year. Getting to build this whole business with him has probably been one of the best parts.
Do you have anything else you want to say about Freakin’ Vegan?
Kurt: We have a breakfast empanada; cheesy tofu scramble with potatoes and vegan bacon that we’re currently packaging. That’ll be available in all the places we sell. We’re kind of excited about that.