Love Poke? This National Chain Adds Vegan Spam Musubi to Its Menu
Poke – a common dish in Hawaiian cuisine usually comprised of chopped-up raw fish – went from a relatively local specialty to a national craze in a matter of a few years, but the fish-centric dish leaves plant-based diners wanting something more: Leading poke chain Pokeworks announced recently that it aims to invite plant-based consumers by adding vegan protein to its menu. The national chain teamed up with the renowned Hong Kong-based vegan brand Omnifoods to introduce the vegan spam musubi to its menus in Washington, California, and New York.
OmniFoods’ OmniPork Luncheon meat is a replication of Hormel’s iconic SPAM product, presenting a delicious plant-based pork product that is commonly seen in poke dishes. The new menu item will allow plant-based consumers to purchase poke bowls with an animal-free protein. Pokeworks revealed that the partnership will test consumer response to the plant-based pork before planning a more extensive rollout.
“This partnership with OmniFoods is very exciting as we continue to find more plant-based alternatives that can be added to our customers’ favorite bowls at Pokeworks,” CEO of Pokeworks Steve Heeley said in a statement. “With sustainability as one of our core values, we are constantly looking for innovative ways to meet consumer demand that are both good for the planet and provide healthy options for mindful consumers. We look forward to working with OmniFoods to help showcase [its] premium, preferred alternative to our traditional Garlic Spam Musubi.”
Beyond the plant-based pork, Pokeworks is planning to introduce a variety of sustainable proteins into the future. The national eatery also partnered with the cell-based seafood startup WildType to incorporate the sushi-grade cultured fish into the menu once the food tech company receives regulatory approval. While the plant-based launch is currently limited, Pokeworks operates 65 restaurants across the United States with the intention to grow to 85 by 2023.
Pokeworks’ vegan spam musubi will mark the first time a national poke brand features a plant-based protein on its main menu. Depending on the trial period, it could substantially change the poke market, giving consumers nationwide a chance to experience what fuels the cuisine’s widespread popularity.
The OmniFoods pork alternative features simple and nutritious ingredients, formulated to mirror the taste and texture of traditional pork. The OmniPork Luncheon uses a proprietary blend of plant-based protein sourced from soy, peas, rice, and shiitake mushrooms. The environmentally-friendly product reduces carbon emissions, waste, and water use as compared to its animal-based counterpart.
OmniFoods originally debuted its plant-based proteins in Asia where it saw widespread success and positive response. The Hong Kong-based company partnered with McDonald’s to bring plant-based pork to locations across China, Hong Kong, and Macau. Now, the company has successfully entered the United States market. Last year, the company made an exclusive US debut, teaming up with select restaurants before making its national debut in August. The products are now available in Sprouts Farmers Markets and Whole Foods Markets nationwide.
The company is capitalizing on one of the fastest-growing plant-based sectors. The plant-based pork market is expected to grow at a 24 percent CAGR within the next decade, according to Future Market Insights. The growth rate is significantly higher than several other plant-based categories including chicken and fish. OmniFoods’ US expansion will only continue to fuel this category into the near future.
“After our successful expansion in the US over the last six months, we are incredibly delighted to partner with Pokeworks and bring OmniPork to more people and communities as well as fulfill our mission to construct a multi-faceted global ecosystem of future food,” Founder and CEO of OmniFoods David Yeung said in a statement. “We have no doubt that the new OmniPork Luncheon Musubi will be a success, and we look forward to growing our partnership while taking a stance to support Veganuary and appreciate the impact food can have on our world.”