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Vegan Restaurateur Pinky Cole joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss her collaboration with Incogmeato by Morningstar Farms.
AKIKO FUJITA: Well, concerns about food source sustainability led to huge growth in the vegan food space. One of those restaurant owners leading the vegan movement in Atlanta out with a new product today, and a big collaboration. Introducing plant based chicken tenders. Let's bring in Pinky Cole. She's a vegan restauranteur. We've also got Yahoo Finance's Brooke DiPalma joining in on the conversation. Pinky, it's great to talk to you today. You're going to get a lot of people who say plant based chicken tenders. I'm not sure how I'd feel about that. But talk to me about the demand that you see in the market for something like this right now.
PINKY COLE: Well, first of all, thanks for having me. There is a big demand in the market when it comes to plant based foods. I started my concept in 2018. And since 2018, I've been having lines down the block. So that just shows me, especially in the heart of the South, that people are more conscious about the things that they eat. So when we think about these chicken tenders knowing that there is a nationwide shortage, it just goes to show you that people are getting more in tuned about the foods that they consume.
Incogmeato has these chicken tenders that taste like meat, look like meat, feel like meat. So now people are really just going for options that taste really good and whether they're meat eaters or vegan, they can consume it and they can add it to their lifestyle. And it works. And it works in a major way, especially because pop culture is behind it.
BROOKE DIPALMA: Pinky, you were also one of the chefs that Shake Shack picked is part of their Now Serving campaign. You introduce a 100% vegan burger. What do you make of all these major fast food and fast casual chains beginning to introduce plant based protein and partnering with companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods?
PINKY COLE: Well, the beautiful thing about it is once upon a time-- look, I've been doing it for seven years. So I used to eat side salads and fries just to get by. And since I started Slutty Vegan, I realized that there are major chains that are now adding options to the menu. So it just goes to show you that this is what people are asking for. So you have to fulfill the demand. When people want it, you give them what they want. And one, it serves for better business, two, it shows you that people are getting more conscious, and three, these partnerships when they look at small businesses like mine, it shows that we might not be the biggest fish in the fish tank but we're making a very big impact.
And I'm excited to make an impact on people who just want to redefine food in a way that they've never seen it before. And I'm confident that within the next 10 years we'll probably have the majority of the country eating plant based, especially because of how it's being introduced now.
BROOKE DIPALMA: You also recently close on a $1.4 million property down in Atlanta. What are you most optimistic about the restaurants scene in Atlanta and Atlanta as a whole?
PINKY COLE: Well, I'm optimistic about opportunity. This was just supposed to be a ghost restaurant. And here I am little old me signing $1.4 million deals, opening up community centers, purchasing all the real estate for the restaurants that I put Slutty Vegan in, going into food deserts and food insecure areas and areas where developers are not attracted to and raising the property value of these locations. I'm excited about opportunity. I'm excited about community and commerce. And I'm excited about teaching people about food and entrepreneurship and all that comes with it.
There's no rulebook to me. I created this concept and I'm literally disrupting the industry with my innovative marketing, with the way that we show people good experience just so that they could try vegan food. And it's a racy and it's raunchy but has nothing to do with sex. And it makes it memorable and makes people want to try it more. And the opportunities that are attached to it are endless.
So I'm just excited about all that comes with it. And I'm even more excited about this partnership with Incogmeato because they have a great brand. And I have a great brand. And to be able to collaborate with a company like that that shows me that we're progressing and we're moving forward every step of the way.
AKIKO FUJITA: And Pinky, I know you said you've been a vegan for years. We've had a number of fast food chains make the shift to plant based, or at least offer plant based. But here in New York City last week, a big headline coming out of what is considered one of the top restaurants in the world, Chef Daniel Humm saying that Eleven Madison Park will now become all vegan when he reopens in June. I wonder how big of a game changer you think that is in terms of people's ability to maybe look at vegan food, take a different approach. I mean, when you have the top restaurant saying we're no longer going to serve meat, how big is that for the vegan movement?
PINKY COLE: Oh, it's humongous. It's big for so many reasons. One, people understand that veganism is not just a trend. It's not something that's just here today, gone tomorrow like people thought. This is something that's here to stay. And once upon a time, people would push the vegan agenda on you. And that doesn't happen anymore. People just want to create and curate great food. And I think that chef is doing that. He made a really really good decision to do it.
There's so many things that are happening in our economy right now. And we just want to get back to one. And back to one is the nostalgic feeling when you could have good food, and food could bring you and your family together. And that's what good food can do. And that's what good plant based food can do. So I'll be one of the first people to go to his restaurant and try it out. And I'm just excited about the bigger chains doing the same thing because they realize that plant based is the new wave. And we're here to stay and we're not going anywhere.
AKIKO FUJITA: OK, we look forward to following your progress there. Pinky Cole, it's good to talk to you today. And our thanks to Brooke DiPalma as well for joining in on the conversation.