NUGGS: The Impossible Chicken Nugget

Have you ever found yourself trying the latest health and wellness trends? Maybe you’ve tried new skincare items, bought a Peloton, or started journaling. 

One increasingly popular health trend that 2020 has brought is meat substitutes, specifically plant-based protein products. NUGGS, the first startup to specialize in “chicken” technology, simulates real meat products with entirely plant-based ingredients and has garnered significant acclaim. 

NUGGS was founded in 2018 by 21-year-old Australian Entrepreneur Ben Pasternak, who partnered with a group of food scientists to revolutionize the plant-based meat industry. NUGGS Chief Technology Officer Thierry Saint-Denis, who has been with the company since the beginning, said in an interview with Hi’s Eye, “We decided to create a company that could dedicate its money and brand power to improve the food system,  make the food taste good and fun and at the same time [try] to improve health and the planet.”

These iconic chicken nuggets are nearly indistinguishable from the flavor and texture of real meat. “It’s a chicken nugget simulation. We try to deliver the same or better taste than [real meat],” Saint-Denis said. The brand’s commitment to making a tasty plant-based product that so resembles the taste and appearance of chicken is likely what has contributed to their success. When College Student Jessi Schlewitt first tried NUGGS, she “was pleasantly surprised. They just taste really good and they taste real, so you don’t even notice that you’re being vegan.” 

As a relatively new company, NUGGS has many competitors, such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Burger. What makes NUGGS stand out from other products is that they value the customer and their feedback, consistently making improvements and releasing “updated” versions of their products. NUGGS has launched nine releases in just two years, a testament to their willingness to adapt to customers’ preferences and meet their requests. By sending out questionnaires a few days after a product is shipped, NUGGS can get direct feedback from customers. “We take all of those comments and read all of them at the end of the day. We take their inputs and we improve the product or the overall experience based on [the feedback]. To do that, we get to work almost immediately,” said Saint-Denis. 

To promote their product, NUGGS relies heavily on social media. Their unique global marketing strategy appeals to people of all ages, especially to Generation Z audiences, and has driven their rapid and widespread success. The NUGGS Instagram page features posts that younger audiences find amusing and their website is designed with unexpected hidden features, such as an interactive game for visitors to play.

 “I think they do such a great job of marketing,” Schlewitt said. “The emails that they send out to their email list and also the people who run the social media pages just do such a great job of appealing to our generation and it makes me more excited to buy from them again.” 

The idea of fully replacing meat with plant-based substitutes may raise some doubts for some about the dangers of eliminating meat. However, as long as one is replacing meat with a variety of plant-based protein sources, a meat-free diet poses no apparent threat to one’s health. 

Dietician and Nutritionist Rawan Abdalla said, “If you’re eating the same two or three foods, and that’s it, then there is a danger in that case, but if you’re eating a balanced diet, then you don’t really need to eat meat.” 

Looking into the future, NUGGS plans to continue expanding their company. With plans to soon release a variety of plant-based meat products such as DOGGS (vegan hot dogs) and TENDERS (vegan chicken tenders), NUGGS is making a name for itself in the food industry. Next year, they plan on extending their line of products from strictly online-orders to stores, offering international shipping and investing in their first factory in New Jersey. “Most people in [the food] industry delegate the manufacturing to someone else so they don’t fully control everything that’s done to the quality of [their product]. We are taking the steps to actually own the full stack,” Saint-Denis said. 

Although there will be some complications and delays to the big plans that NUGGS had in-store due to COVID-19, the company is still dedicated to taking plant-based meat products to a new level with the help of unique production and marketing methods.

“Even though the COVID craziness is probably the worst thing for companies in a crisis like this, I see this as a very interesting challenge,” Saint-Denis said. “The only thing I know for sure is that the next version will be even better.”