Food Entrepreneur LONG ISLAND, NY. — Blackbird Foods is going back to the basics, but in plant-based applications.

The New York-based company launched in 2020 with its flagship product — seitan. The seitan recipe was created by chef-turned-entrepreneur Mark Mebus, who created it for his former restaurant, Blackbird Pizzeria in Philadelphia.

Blackbird later launched a retail line of seitan and its plant-based frozen pizza in January 2020.

“We wanted to develop restaurant quality plant-based products that are favorite comfort foods consumers can enjoy at home,” said Emanuel Storch, chief executive officer and co-founder of Blackbird Foods.

As plant-based chefs, Storch and his co-founders, Mike Pease, Craig Cochran and Mebus, had grown tired of the plant-based options they saw on the market.

“We’re tired of mass-manufactured products that don’t resemble what they’re supposed to and fall short of promises made to the consumer,” he said. “That’s where we’re striving to be a differentiator; it’s really promising what consumers look for the most: taste and quality.”

Blackbird Foods manufactures its products in-house, using seitan as an ingredient in its wings, which are battered and fried. It's shredded cheese is coconut-based. 

“That’s the blank canvas proteins that shoppers use to make recipes at home, but that requires a lot of education behind it,” Storch said. “We saw that consumers really want easy-to-prepare familiar foods. That’s why we started with pizza and wings because everyone knows what pizza and wings are.”

Blackbird Foods wingsPhoto: Blackbird Foods

The plant-based pizzas are formulated from an overnight rising dough.

“Most frozen pizzas are mass-manufactured,” Storch said. “We’re providing traditional, hand-tossed crust that is not gluten-free.”

Blackbird Foods began its journey primarily selling to restaurants, but things quickly went direct-to-consumer and later to retail.

“We always wanted to go to retail and had retail products developed,” he said. “But once COVID happened, we set up a direct-to-consumer website overnight that allowed customers to order directly from us. That’s what kicked things off was getting into local and independent stores here in New York. Retailers soon began hearing about us and asking for our products.”

Pizza is often a favorite among children and younger consumers, and Blackbird Foods is putting its pizza on the menu at public schools.

“That’s been a big passion of mine is fixing nutrition in schools where the options are so bleak,” Storch said. “We’ve developed a new plant-based frozen pizza for public schools that is a full serving of whole grain. We’re working on that this year and will see that roll out this fall.”

To continue its journey, Blackbird Foods recently launched a crowdfunding campaign and has raised approximately $60,000 so far on StartEngine. The company previously raised approximately $292,000 in a crowdfunding campaign in 2023.

“We’ll be utilizing the funds for growth and to break even,” Storch said. “In order to break even, which the goal is to do later this year, we need more capital to get to that point so we can continue launching into new retailers.” 

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