CHICAGO — For independently owned plant-based meat alternative company Upton’s Naturals, staying the course has been its strategy with its Seitan brand. Launched in 2006, the brand is available in five meat alternative varieties, including bacon, chorizo, ground, Italian and traditional.
The company followed up in 2015 with its line of meat alternative formulated with jackfruit.
“We’ve tried to branch out into other things to increase brand awareness over the years to keep the business interesting because it’s always fun to create new things,” said Daniel Staackmann, founder of Upton’s. “Even throughout the rise and fall of quote-on-quote plant-based popularity we didn’t change very much, which is I think how we’ve managed to get where we’re at.”
The plant-based category has faced deceleration the past few years, but Mr. Staackmann said Seitan has fared well.
“According to SPINS Q4 2022, our brand position was up 10% in natural, when the refrigerated meat alternative category as a whole was down 15%,” he said. “Upton’s Naturals is currently the No. 1 selling seitan brand in natural and MULO channels.”
Mr. Staackmann noted they are staying cautious.
“I don’t think there’s much opportunity for any kind of acceleration right now because of all the bad press the category has been getting,” he said. “Perhaps now we’re at the point where the excitement is more on a slow build and going back to Seitan is really the core business. At this point we’re just doing our best to promote what we have and maintain what we have and keep giving consumers products with simple ingredients.”
Throughout the years, Upton’s has remained a 100% self-funded company, which is something Mr. Staackmann has been cautious of throughout his business tenure.
“We’ve had countless private equity and capital venture guys come and meet us at trade shows and it’s difficult because once you say yes to them, everything changes,” he said. “I’ve known plenty of people who have been ruined by getting into bed with ‘sharks’ for example because they only care about money.”
As a major brand in the seitan category, Mr. Staackmann is happy with the way things are going.“It feels good to have been able to survive the highs and lows with the influx of cash and after all these years we’re still on the shelf and haven’t compromised on anything,” he said.