Talking Jackfruit and Veganism with the Founder of Upton’s Naturals
Vegan cuisine is on the rise. Celebrities are vocal about their food choices, our supermarkets are becoming more vegan-friendly, and approximately 5% of the population in the U.S. has gone completely meat-free. Edible interviewed Daniel Staackmann, founder of Upton’s Naturals about how he discovered jackfruit as a meat substitute, and the mainstreaming of veganism.
Edible: What were you doing before you started Upton’s Naturals?
Daniel: I’ve had several different jobs, but to pay the bills right before and during the early years of Upton’s Naturals I bought and sold design (i.e., furnishings by designers such as Charles & Ray Eames, George Nelson, Gio Ponti, etc.). I could find something in the trash or at an estate sale during a few hours each week, sell it at auction and be able to pay the bills for a few months. That allowed me to focus more on development of Upton’s without having any outside investors.
Edible: Tell us about the first time you had jackfruit.
Daniel: I first had Jackfruit in a curry at a Nepalese restaurant. I really enjoyed it and after doing some further research I saw that there were a number of recipes online where people were using it for BBQ and tacos. The problem we found is that the only way to make those recipes was to hunt down cans of Jackfruit from Asian specialty food stores, which usually have preservatives, a ton of sodium and then it would take 1-3 hours to cook before you could eat it. We thought it would be great to have a product that had clean ingredients and was ready to eat in much less time.
Edible: What is it about jackfruit that makes it a perfect meat substitute?
Daniel: It’s all about the texture, which when cooked down, is very similar to shredded poultry or pulled pork.
Edible: What do you think is the biggest challenge vegan cuisine faces as it becomes more mainstream?
Daniel: It’s only getting easier as more people are seeing the impact veganism has on their bodies, the environment and the lives of animals. The only challenge I see is perhaps having too many choices!
Edible: Any product expansions coming up soon?
Daniel: We do have some new and exciting items, but we won’t be making them public until EXPO West in March.
Edible: Is Upton (The Guy on the Box) based on anyone? What's his story?
Daniel: Upton is just a fictional character, but he’s our best salesperson. Illustrated by artist Johnny Sampson.