You can be vegan and still love salmon, cheese and Nutella. The Living Tree Foods store in New Westminster is on a mission to provide vegan alternatives to animal foods without compromising taste.
We don’t often hear the words salmon and carrot used in the same sentence. But Living Tree Foods, the relatively new vegan retail store in New Westminster, offers a plant-based alternative to smoked salmon made with crunchy carrots.
They call it Slammin’ Lox.
In fact, it’s this carrot-based “seafood” that gave Emily Wilson and Kyle McKay the final push to start a business selling vegan products.
Wilson, who became a vegan at the age of nine, had been experimenting with creating vegan products for years. But the idea of making it a business didn’t really take off until 2020, when she gave her partner McKay (the duo started dating that year) a taste of some of her of plants.
“He was shocked at how delicious vegan food could be and how incorrect many people’s preconceptions are that it’s an inferior substitute for animal products,” he said. Wilson said.
The Slammin’ Lox particularly blew him away and played a key role in getting things going commercially.
At this time, Wilson was in his final year of law school and Kyle was working as a corporate lawyer at a top law firm. Besides the excitement of introducing their vegan food to the world, the pandemic has also caused them to rethink their future plans.
“With our job prospects and more traditional career paths looking a little more uncertain, we decided to create something of our own,” Wilson said.
Living Tree Foods started in the middle of the pandemic. They created their products from a commissary kitchen and sold them online.
It took them two years to launch their own retail store – the one with a bright blue storefront on Royal Avenue.
The space also has a production facility where the duo strive to create creative alternatives to animal-based foods, which, as Wilson said, “contribute to climate change, health issues and ( of course) to the suffering of animals”.
A 2020 study by American Society of Nutrition have shown that chronic diseases are associated with the consumption of animal products. And, a 2021 study published on natural food stated that foods of animal origin contribute 57% of greenhouse gas emissions.
Wilson and McKay therefore took the initiative to remove some of the barriers to a plant-based diet, such as “lack of good taste, inconvenience, price, etc. “.
“Up until now, our products have primarily focused on the taste barrier – we have created products that are even tastier than their animal-based counterparts, while remaining reasonably priced given their premium nature. ”
While the positive reviews were enough validation for the founders, they also recently won gold in the “Outstanding New Product” category at the From the Ground Up show.
At the store you can find 10 different varieties of cream cheese. Garlic & Chive Alive (a taste of Boursin), Death by Garlic (garlicy as its name suggests), Holy Smoked! (smoky gouda flavor) and Jala-Bueno ‘Cheddar’ (a cheesy nacho flavor with a bit of heat) are the best sellers.
The one that took the most effort, however, is Hot Tropic, Wilson said. The “complex” cheese is sweet (made from pineapple and mango), spicy (made from cayenne and crushed red pepper) and tangy (made from lime juice), with a hint of ginger, paprika and onion.
More recently, the store’s inventory has expanded to include yogurt and a chocolate hazelnut spread that Wilson says tastes like Nutella. Only, the Wilson product does not use oil or refined sugar (maple syrup, maple sugar and/or date sugar are used instead).
In addition to creating its own non-vegan food alternatives, the brand also offers a curated selection of products from other brands. “We don’t view other vegan companies as competitors — there’s room for everyone,” Wilson said.
Living Tree Foods is located at 1025 Royal Ave. The store also offers its wares at the New West Farmers Market every Thursday between 3 and 7 p.m. in Tipperary Park. Check Living Tree Foods website for their market schedule.