Don’t Be Chicken: NUGGS Vegan Chicken Nuggets Want To Be The Food of the Future

by Theresa Christine Johnson on 05/26/2020 | 4 Minute Read

You are now entering the nugget simulation.

Well, that is, with a click of a button, a nice FedEx delivery person will bring a box (or more!) of NUGGS vegan chicken nuggets to your doorstep. These are not your ordinary faux chik’ns, though—that’s evident from before you even purchase a box. Along with 15 grams of protein per serving and 40% less fat than animal-based mystery nuggets, NUGGS dishes out the right amount of tongue-in-cheek snark that speaks to a modern audience.

“I felt that humans were going to build a new type of nature, one where technology and the natural world will function as one,” said Founder and CEO of NUGGS Ben Pasternak. After conducting some beta tests in 2018, he successfully launched NUGGS in 2019, as a teenager, no less. “To get there, we’d have to replace old unsustainable technologies, mostly in the transportation and nutrition sector.

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“NUGGS was founded on the belief that the first step to transforming the way humans receive nutrition was to replace old prehistoric nutrition technologies, like animals, by simulating them with plant inputs.”

According to The Atlantic, “for most Americans, cutting meat out of their diets would reduce global warming more than giving up driving.” That seems like an impossible future, but people choosing a vegetarian or vegan diet has increased. As a response, the sales of plant-based foods in the US increased by over 11% in 2018 alone, and the plant-based meat category (think Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat, and the newcomer NUGGS) is worth more than $800 million. 

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“To feed a population of billions of people, it is not sustainable to feed everyone with ‘straight-from-the-earth’ technologies,” explained Ben. “It’s a nice idea, but not possible. Thankfully, with new nutrition technology, we will be able to feed the entire population with equally great nutrition, and, eventually, even better.”

Although NUGGS are made in a lab and not hand-picked and sold at your local farmer’s market, the vegan chicken nuggets appeal to consumers in a different way. There’s the sustainability aspect that makes these much more earth- and animal-friendly than traditional meat nuggets, plus they’re arguably healthier (you won’t find any cholesterol in these NUGGS). The brand also relies on transparency with their ingredients—they’re easy to find on the site and the box, so no mystery meat here.

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Aside from being upfront about what NUGGS are and how they get made, the brand also strives to improve their recipe. Currently, they're on NUGGS Version 1.6. "We prioritize feedback based on volume supporting that feedback," Ben said, "so the 'bugs' that are pointed out more often are prioritized."

But what really makes NUGGS stand out is the branding and packaging conceived by Ryder Ripps and then extended by Anthony Salazar. The bright red, for instance, came from standard fast-food chains with Ripps describing it as "MoMA meets McDonald's." A bold sans serif font is uncomplicated and modern, and stands at the top of the packaging, framing the entire box as if it were a band t-shirt. And as if it were poking fun at itself, NUGGS features a real chicken on the front—something a pack of chicken breasts in the butcher section of the grocery store could never get away with.

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The voice for NUGGS has a wit and playfulness that makes the brand feel like your hip, best friend. Their social media comes packed with Nicolas Cage and The Office memes. “Don’t be chicken,” the packaging says, while the website states this vegan alternative “kills you slower.”

“We intend to target a younger demographic,” Ben stated. “We believe all change starts with young people, including the transition to clean meat tech.”

He emphasized that NUGGS aims to be non-preachy. Yes, he hopes people will move past the idea that animal-based nutrition is the ultimate way to eat, moving onto more sustainable options through better delivery methods. But the focus is on the possibilities of the future and not shaming people for the ways of their past.

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“Preachiness leads to polarization,” he said, “and polarization is not an effective way to enable behavioral change.”

To the average consumer, this may seem like just another option in the vegan meat category. But NUGGS is a sign of something more. This very well could be a food of the future and the real acceleration of a trend for how people will get their nutrition for years to come.

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