Wicked Kitchen is based in Minneapolis, but its food products have been hard to find in the Twin Cities. That's about to change.
The plant-based packaged food brand is opening its first concession at Target Center where fans can nosh on meatless brats, burgers and subs during Timberwolves and Lynx basketball games and concerts.
"There's no better way to show mainstream America that animal-free foods are super tasty, satisfying and comforting than by serving them up in a basketball stadium in the middle of the country," said Wicked CEO Pete Speranza. "We are thrilled for our global brand to show up loud and proud right here in our hometown."
The concession will face an immediate test as the plant-based market starts to flatten. A University of Minnesota survey earlier this year found 20% of Americans prefer plant protein and many said they intend to eat more. But sales of plant-based meat alternatives have hit a "plateau," and several categories are seeing sales drop off, according to the Food Institute.
That's because the easy converts have already made the leap to plant-based alternatives. A recent Deloitte survey concluded that "the portion of the U.S. population open to trying (and repeat buying) it may already have reached a saturation point."
Producers need to "expand the addressable market, bring down relative costs and create formulations that provide health benefits while maintaining taste," the consulting firm said.
To that end, Wicked's Target Center concession does not hide its slogan: "Vegan food for meat eaters." Speranza, who spent a good portion of his career at General Mills, said the brand focuses on flavors first to make animal-free eating more inclusive and approachable.
"We know our foods will quickly be fan favorites and on par with the amazing [Timberwolves] team this year," he said.
Wicked is among several new food vendors that will be announced today ahead of the Timberwolves home opener on Wednesday. The initial menu will feature a brat, burger and meatball sub alongside plant-based ice cream treats and beers by Finnegan's.
The team's chief operating officer, Ryan Tanke, said in a statement the concession is "a gourmet and chef-driven offering" with "something for everyone."
A year and a half after launching in national grocery store chains elsewhere in the country, some Wicked products are also now available at a dozen Kowalski's Market locations and at co-ops around the metro and in Duluth. Speranza said more local retailers are on the horizon.
"We didn't want fans to go home frustrated they couldn't find us," he said.
The moves into the hometown market cap a busy few months for the company. Wicked recently announced a $20 million investment round led by actor Woody Harrelson. It also acquired plant-based seafood maker Good Catch.
Speranza was also in Thailand last week to kick off the brand's national distribution plans there.
"Our founders want to make an impact as fast as they can," he said of the company's global growth.
Wicked Kitchen was founded in 2017 in the U.K. by chefs Chad and Derek Sarno. The company sells its frozen and shelf-stable plant-based products in 6,500 retailers around the U.S. — the Target Center concession is its first foray into food service.