Prime Roots Unveils Vegan Deli Meats You Can Shave, Slice and Serve Like Real Bodega Favourites

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California’s Prime Roots has announced its new range of vegan meats and pâtes designed to mimic animal-based alternatives in appearance, taste and carving ability. Pepperoni, smoked ham and black pepper turkey can be ordered as a whole joint, ready for slicing and shaving on a commercial machine.

Alongside deli meats for slicing, the company offers vegan foie gras and various pâtes. Prime Roots‘ mission is to supersede traditional charcuterie creations with cruelty and animal-free alternatives. The startup claims to lack none of the traditional flavours that deli aficionados crave and credits the realistic textures to its core ingredient; koji.

Koji deli meats.

The (not so) secret ingredient

Koji, a Japanese form of mycelium, is a protein-rich ingredient with the right umami notes to replicate savoury meats. It has been used to create flavourful miso and soy sauce for years and now, is the main player on Prime Roots’ deli meat range. Previous launches and product testing has seen koji-based turkeys, bacon, chicken and pork trialled. Stuffed ravioli has been launched as well, with koji-based lobster filling. The new deli range represents a step forward, according to the founders.

“Our [deli] hams and turkeys are the same weight and size as their animal counterparts and that’s because the koji is able to replicate the texture and the taste of meat all naturally just from the way that it grows as a whole food source of protein,” Kimberlie Le, co-founder of Prime Roots told VegNews. “There is no other product on the market that can slice like meat and this is something uniquely [sic] that we can do.”

Koji is able to develop extra-long tendrils that effectively replicate the fibrosity of conventional meat, creating a solid whole cut that can be sliced.

The motivation for vegan deli meats

The global deli market is said to be worth $300 billion. Breaking up the monopoly of animal meats would be indicative of widespread consumer shift and offer environmental benefits. If meat-loving Americans can enjoy a plant-based turkey sandwich as much as a ‘real’ one, Prime Roots will have succeeded in its mission to impact the industry in a meaningful way. 

Le identifies as a flexitarian and grew up enjoying meat. Deli meat was a favourite, thanks to the ritual of watching it being sliced, as well as the culture surrounding deli food. She, along with co-founder Joshua Nixon, wanted to find an alternative to the American tradition of full loaded meat sandwiches. “Animals are just really outdated and inefficient technology in my opinion,” she concluded to VegNews. “We are motivated to make a change every day to be able to leave future generations with hopefully a planet a little better off than we found it.”

Prime Roots vegan deli meats will be launched through foodservice partners this year. Locations are yet to be confirmed. The long-term goal is to see Prime Roots stocked in bodegas, supermarkets and in delis, alongside the regular meat.

Koji deli meat charcuterie board.

Deli meats as the next frontier

Prime Roots is not the only company looking to perfect deli meat releases. Over in the U.K. Veganly Deli is making superfood-charged deli meats, cheeses and faux foie gras. Each product is artisan in nature and developed by Michelin-trained chefs. The meats come pre-sliced and packaged, meaning that no comment can be made as to the sliceable attributes. What they, might, lack in that area, they make up for with holistic ingredient additions that are claimed to improve mood and anxiety.

Back in May last year, New York startup Plantcraft unveiled a range of vegan, major allergen-free pâtes. Deli meats are set to follow, with pepperoni slated to be the first release. The company seeks to create clean label alternatives to heavily processed meats. Personal health and planetary benefit are both cited as driving motivations. 

All photos by Prime Roots.


  • Amy Buxton

    A long-term committed ethical vegan and formerly Green Queen's resident plant-based reporter, Amy juggles raising a family and maintaining her editorial career, while also campaigning for increased mental health awareness in the professional world. Known for her love of searing honesty, in addition to recipe developing, animal welfare and (often lacklustre) attempts at handicrafts, she’s hands-on and guided by her veganism in all aspects of life. She’s also extremely proud to be raising a next-generation vegan baby.

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