What's the story?
It all started three years ago when Pingala Cafe opened it's doors. Being the only all vegan establishment in Burlington Vermont, we knew we really had to walk the walk to earn our stay.
The vibe was great and the goal was clear: quickly and consistently serve food that exceeds peoples' standards without the use of animal products. The objectives were obvious: design a menu around the textures and flavors that most people love, and create as much "in-house" as possible. The results have been above and beyond, especially for one product in particular...you guessed it: eggplant bacon. The stuff is righteous, and downright delicious, if we may say so.
We noticed that there was a following for this stuff pretty early on...People were adding eggplant bacon to just about everything on the menu, and were constantly asking us "do you guys sell this stuff in packages?" So we did what any sensible operation would do: crank it out and start retailing!
Well, as the cafe grew busier and busier, and based on the response from customers after retail went live, we quickly learned that we would need to expand our operations and upgrade equipment to help us meet supply and demand...We are currently running several 9-tray countertop dehydrators around the clock, and processing nearly 500 pounds of eggplant per month. We are at capacity and have determined that it is time to take the next step.
What will these funds be used for?
We are seeking a percentage of the total funds for the estimated cost of this project. These funds will help us in making the necessary purchases to keep this project going. Here are some of the big things:
- Commercial Food Dehydrator
- Kitchen Renovations
- Commercial Food Mixer
- Packing Equipment
- Other considerations: personnel, website, graphic design/branding, distribution infrastructure, legal fees
Why will this work?
Food costs are dialed in. Our process is unique. Our model is scalable.
Pingala Cafe has provided us with the unique opportunity to product test and perfect the recipe over the last three years which will give us a significant competative advantage. We have received loads of feedback and have reduced the number of ingredients to less than ten with no GMOs, thickening agents, or artificial coloring. Through extensive research we have been able to identify the equipment needed to maximize productivity and output. The chart below indicates major improvements in drying times and energy efficiencies with the commercial dehydrator we will purchase.
It doesn't take extensive research to see that the vegan movement is growing exponentially, and that the market is ripe for a plant-based, bacon-like product. Vegan foods have significantly less of an overall negative impact on our health, the planet, animal welfare, and the future. This is the kind of product that everyone can enjoy and feel really good about. But really, the amazing customers at Pingala have been encouraging us to do this for years.
What do people say about EPB?
- "I will buy all of this!!! Amazing!!! Where are you selling it? Need asap"
- "This is the next best thing to bacon since I became vegan - crispy, smoky, salty and sweet - satisfies my old cravings and I'm obsessed with it on an "ELT" (eggplant, lettuce and tomato)"
- "Absolutely delicious! Everyone I've known who has tried it loves it. And it's not greasy and always perfectly cooked!"
- "Eggplant bacon, what all younger eggplants aspire to be in life, what eggplants dream about every night hoping one day they will reach the highest level of eggplant deliciousness."
- "I literally crave it. Sometimes I can't afford to eat out so I just put this bacon on my salads and sandwiches at home!"
- "Love is not a strong enough word."
- "It's literally the best faux bacon I've ever had anywhere!!!"
Let's. Do. This.
The amazing staff (both past and present) at Pingala Cafe have been helping to perfect the recipe and process of creating eggplant bacon for over three years, and now we want to share it with the world.
We are ready, this will work, and it will be a huge step in a great direction. Please join us.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Risks and challenges
What are the risks for this project?
With any business, there is the obvious worst case scenario: people don't want to buy the product or service. However, there are many existing factors that indicate that this will not be the case fur us, including one very important constant, which is that we will be our biggest customer (from the start anyway). Both cafe locations will be purchasing Eggplant Bacon from a separate business - Animaloo Vegan Foods, LLC - which will be the start to finish eggplant bacon producer, which we already own. Additionally, retail sales at the cafe, wholesale accounts we currently serve, and positive consumer feedback are all favorable indicators of steady and increasing sales.
Another risk that every business faces is competition. Things that are important to consider in this realm are that there is little to no market saturation of plant-based meats, especially bacon, and the consumer base is continuing to grow. There is definitely plenty of room in this sector. Competition at this phase of industry growth should actually be viewed as positive because any two (or more) companies producing a similar product will help build momentum for one another, and ultimately stimulate innovation. Competition will also help us hone in on our core audience, allowing for strength building from the inside out. Lastly, our product and process is very unique and we have legal protection on various pieces of the product as a whole.
What are the challenges that come along with this project?
As with any business, there is the challenge of managing personnel. People get sick, have family emergencies, and can't make it to work, which then effects the flow of business. This is part of being human, and fortunately we know how to deal with these scenarios through our restaurant and food cart experience. It is also important to note that most of our equipment and systems will be automated, and with each stage of growth we will become more automated and less dependent on people.
As demand increases, supply must respond without skipping a beat. We will be prepared for internal and external growth at all stages. Along with having strategized for phase 2 and phase 3 for this project, we have mapped out ways to anticipate and overcome the challenges that inevitably come with growth.
Why are we qualified to overcome it?
We have "PEP" (in our step). People. Experience. Passion.
Trevor Sullivan, Owner/Operator of Pingala Cafe and founder of Animaloo Vegan Foods, will be the Eggplant Bacon project manager. Along with over a decade of industry experience, Trevor has earned degrees in both Entrepreneurship (JWU'07) and Business Administration (WSU'09). Trevor has also completed the Natural Gourmet Institute's Food Business Entrepreneurship course this past Fall, is ServSafe certified, and has his Allergen Awareness Certification in several states. This is all to say, he's coming from both a food and business background, which gives a solid foundation of knowledge, experience, and resources from which to draw.
Charles Dowling, a managing member of Animaloo Vegan Foods, will bring what he has brought to Pingala Cafe for the past three years: outstanding customer service and consumer education. Charles has over a decade of restaurant industry experience with a focus on guest relations and satisfaction - Charles is exactly the type of person you would want to represent a company and product that he believes in. This experience will enable Charles to quickly make the connections we need to earn business through trade shows, expos, and regional sales.
Marc Gaudreau, a managing member of Animaloo Vegan Foods, has twelve years of restaurant industry experience. Marc is currently the General Manager for Pingala Cafe and will be able to bring many areas of expertise to the project including food costing, establishing efficient operational systems, and personnel management. Mark has the desire to build an innovative and sustainable food company with a focus on human resource ethics and financial responsibility.
In addition to these key people, Animaloo Vegan Foods will have strong ties with Pingala Cafe's accounting firm, attorney, food distributor, and all other networks of people that will help make this business successful.
To recap, we have been testing this product in our restaurant for over three years. We are experts at making and selling this product, and we have nearly all of the resources available to us to be poised for success. We can do this, and we will. But we want to share the journey. Join us. Thank you.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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