‘We want people to eat more plants…’ Wicked Kitchen debuts in US, raises $14m to support US launch

Wicked Foods​ CEO and Unovis partner Pete Speranza – who joined the business in October 2020 after eight years at General Mills’ emerging brand elevator 301INC – is spearheading the US launch of the upmarket brand, which has notched up more than $20m in sales in the UK after launching with Tesco in 2018, growing from 20 SKUs to 160+ across shelf-stable, chilled, and frozen categories.

Unlike many players in the plant-based movement that are myopically focused on meat and dairy analogs that use a surprisingly limited number of plants, Wicked Kitchen has a distinct culinary vibe and a spans a broad range of products from black olive pesto to berry porridge showcasing a broad array of plants from beetroot and sweet potato to seeds and mushrooms, said Speranza.

“If you’ve ever been to a vegan restaurant, you walk out of there and you feel like, if someone cooked for me like that every day, I could be vegan in a heartbeat. That’s what the Wicked Kitchen brand is all about. It’s back to real food. Our whole thing is how do we make it easy and convenient to eat more plants?”

While it’s early days for the brand, which is less than three years old, he said, “Derek, Chad and​ [Unovis partner] Chris Kerr, the other founder, always thought this could go global, all three of them are vegans, and they were just like, eventually, the stuff’s gonna go mainstream and the tailwinds that plant based has today… it really got them excited.”

The US Wicked Kitchen product lineup includes savory meal cups, breakfast cups, meal kits, pesto, m’shroom shreds, meat alternatives, and frozen meals.Picture credit: Wicked Foods

‘We’ll be in about 2,500 stores in the US relatively soon’

The Wicked Kitchen brand – which has just made its US debut in Sprouts with 25 frozen and shelf-stable SKUs from meal kits, breakfast items and pesto to entrées (some featuring meat analogs from Beyond Meat)– is looking to develop close partnerships with key retail partners, rather than spraying and praying, said Speranza, who said buyers had been impressed by its success in the UK.

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