How We Arrived at the Deli

January 13, 2022 3 min read

How We Arrived at the Deli

Prime Roots is on a mission to see the alternative become conventional.

If you take a moment to stop and think about it, there is nothing inherently "conventional" about eating animal protein. For a long time, animal meat was not treated as the center of the plate as we think about it today. Economic, religious, or cultural reasons can all contribute to less meat consumption, allowing plant and fungi proteins to take center stage in a variety of creative ways.

As self-identified flexitarians, Prime Roots founders Kim and Josh have always enjoyed eating meat and the traditions around it. At the same time, they craved an option that didn't carry the same environmental burdens as animal meat that could still provide a truly meaty flavor and texture. From the beginning, they held the dream of walking into a grocery store and seeing an entire deli case filled with meats that were better for the planet and eaters across the board.

Prime Roots was born out of UC Berkeley's Alt: Meat Lab, where students that semester were challenged to make fish, without actually using fish. After growing up in her mom's restaurant and experimenting with fermentation in the kitchen, Kim knew well the culinary potential of koji. Starting with her apartment Instant Pot then graduating to a larger-scale test kitchen, Kim and Josh experimented with the fungi to perfect their Koji Salmon Burger. Eventually, they cracked the code, and won the praise of the New York Times,Wall Street Journal, andWired.

When it came time to launch publicly, Prime Roots grew into a small team of food scientists and marketers. While continuing to develop new products, we took to surveying a growing community of folks interested in the work we were doing to see which koji products you'd like to buy first. It turned out that salmon burgers were not the first choice (in hindsight, not surprising...), but bacon.

Koji Bacon it was! Our first product launch in February 2020 sold out in four hours, proving to us the demand for a delicious, meaty alternative that was easily swapped into your breakfast plate or BLT. Over the next year and a half, we improved the bacon based on your feedback, and tested out a multitude of ready to eat meals featuring a few different Koji Meats.

After a while, it became clear that Koji Bacon was our bestseller by a landslide. In surveying and talking to several of our community members, we learned that what most of you wanted was a convenient alternative to meat that could become a regular part of your meals. Most interestingly, we learned that 64% of our customers did not actually identify as vegan or vegetarian.

It was time to shake up our product line to align with our core mission. We didn't want to exist to provide heat and eat meals, but we wanted to make meat products that were so satisfying you don't even have to think of them as "alternatives." Enter: Koji Deli Meats.

Growing up, we always had a fridge stocked with deli meats for an easy lunch or afternoon picnic. Koji protein, unlike traditional vegetable proteins (like soy, wheat, or gluten), is uniquely positioned to replicate a fully sliceable bulk deli meat with a variety of flavors and textures, just like you'd find with animal meat. Koji is naturally fibrous (think pulled chicken or pork), in contrast to the crumbly texture of vegetable protein. This provides the microscopic structure to be fresh-sliced at varying thicknesses. Within the deli meat category, there are multiple products to showcase koji's versatility- from sliceable cold cuts to pâtés and cured meats.

Instead of re-launching online, we're choosing to partner with some of the best chefs and deli clerks across the country to bring Koji Deli Meats to the world. Through them, we will have trusted partners to answer your questions as you eat and bring another layer of culinary creativity to a new way of eating meat.

Cheers to a new chapter, delicious sandwiches, and challenging conventions. We can't wait to see what you think!