Former Garden Fresh Gourmet Partners Launch Skinny Butcher Across U.S.

Several food industry leaders from across the United States, including partners of the former Garden Fresh Gourmet in Ferndale, have come together to launch a new plant-based protein brand in a manner never before attempted — nationwide in both retail and virtual restaurants.
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Skinny Butcher, the plant-based protein brand from food industry leaders including founders of Ferndale's Garden Fresh, will launch both in virtual and retail restaurants. // Courtesy of Skinny Butcher
Skinny Butcher, the plant-based protein brand from food industry leaders including founders of Ferndale’s Garden Fresh Gourmet, will launch both in virtual and retail restaurants. // Courtesy of Skinny Butcher

Several food industry leaders from across the United States, including partners of the former Garden Fresh Gourmet in Ferndale, have come together to launch a new plant-based protein brand in a manner never before attempted — nationwide in both retail and virtual restaurants.

Garden Fresh Gourmet was launched by the late Jack Aronson, his wife, Annette Aronson, and David Zilko, and was sold to Campbell Soup Co. for $231 million in 2015.

Today, under the brand Skinny Butcher in Detroit, the partners have moved forward on a new concept by inviting L.A.-based Golden West Food Group to exclusively manufacture the line, be equity stakeholders, and serve as the vendor of record, ensuring speed to market on a national scale.

In addition, Wow Bao, originated by Chicago-based Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises (LEYE), has created a virtual kitchen concept for the Skinny Butcher. Wow Bao is a leading virtual restaurant operator that has opened more than 650 units throughout the United States and has already begun onboarding Skinny Butcher onto their existing platform.

As part of the rollout, LEYE chefs created a Crazy Crispy Chick’n menu that includes Chick’n Parm, Jumbo Chick’n Tenders, Chick’n Caesar Salad, Teriyaki Chick’n, sandwiches, and sliders.

Wow Bao, which has partnered with REEF Kitchens to launch Crazy Crispy Chick’n across the country via third-party delivery, has a longstanding relationship with Valor Equity Partners, an operational growth equity firm. Valor Siren Ventures, Valor’s early stage food, food technology, retail, and retail technology investment fund, made a $10 million investment in Skinny Butcher.

“Our mission is to go to market with a line that wins on branding and on flavor profile,” says David Zilko, CEO of Skinny Butcher and former vice chairman of Garden Fresh Gourmet. “No other plant-based program possesses the brand personality of Skinny Butcher; he endears himself to the consumer at the point of sale and that relationship continues through consumption.

“Skinny Butcher does not take himself or our Crazy Crispy line of Chick’n Nuggets, Tenders, Patties, Sliders, or Breasts too seriously. This kind of food should be fun, while also being sustainable.”

Skinny Butcher is importing a progressive vegetable fiber strain, employing pea protein, and adding to it a proprietary spice blend that results in products virtually indistinguishable from animal-based comparables.

From there, the soy-free line further differentiates itself with a unique breading system that allows for the sub-brand “Crazy Crispy,” in response to the white-hot fried chicken sandwich wars playing out in QSR (Quick Service Restaurants) outlets across the country.

“We have always been a food first company, and Dave Zilko and (his) team have created an unparalleled product that we are proud to partner with and represent on a national scale,” says Geoff Alexander, president and CEO of Wow Bao. “While other plant-based chicken companies have nuggets, we have a full line of menu items that will please any and all eaters.”

Zilko concludes, “We’ve assembled an amazing collection of thought leaders from across the country. Skinny Butcher offers instantly iconic branding at retail and an industry leading flavor format with a virtual restaurant program and the resources to scale nationally.”

Detroit-based Skinny Butcher is committed to a skinny planetary footprint via its breakthrough line of plant-based protein poultry items, being offered nationally both at retail and via its unique virtual kitchen program.

Golden West Food Group is a premium manufacturer of food products with headquarters in Vernon, Calf. GWFG offers thousands of products nationwide to a variety of customers in food service, military, private label, and retail channels.

Valor Siren Ventures is a leading innovation engine and investor in early-stage food, food technology, retail, and retail technology investing.

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