Meaty Max Vegan Meats
At the end of June, Meaty Max Vegan Meat Sticks—based locally in Albany and Carmel, NY—will celebrate its one year anniversary. They are a recipient of the Saratoga Living / Capital Region Living Magazine Bestie Award. We spoke with owners Max and Alyssa to talk about their inspiration, how business is going, and what’s coming up next. You can find them at pop ups at Whitecliff Vineyard in Gardiner, on June 11 from 12-5 pm or at Lo-Fi Bar & Lounge on Lark Street in Albany on June 18 starting at 6 pm. You can also find all three flavors—Original, Umami Garlic, and Extra Hot—at the Farm Store.
What got you started making vegan charcuterie?
Max: We’ve both been vegan for over six years now, and we had the challenge that Alyssa is gluten-free and I prefer to eat gluten-free as well. But so much of vegan food is made with seitan which is gluten-based so we wanted to create something different. We also loved dry meats like pepperoni, and half our families are Italian so there’s always pepperoni in something. We both missed that flavor so we created our own cruelty- and allergen-free version.
What do you use to make your sticks?
Max: We use a date base with sundried tomatoes in there and then spices mixtures for the different flavor profiles.
What’s the response been to your products?
Alyssa: We’ve gotten a really great and mixed response. We want to appeal to all eaters, not just people who are already vegan. The meat sticks have been really well received by the vegan crowd, and because it’s also nut- and gluten-free, we’ve gotten good responses from those eaters. We get really excited, though, to have positive feedback from people who are meat eaters and are surprised at how good our meat sticks are.
What’s your strategy to appealing to all the carnivores out there?
Alyssa: We offer three flavors, and we often see people try it as a competition to see if they can take the heat. One person will try the extra hot and then send a friend over to see if they can handle it too. We also say it works great on a charcuterie board, because these days most people have one or two friends or family members who have dietary restrictions. It’s also really versatile, so meat eaters can try it in lots of different ways. It could just be sliced on a charcuterie board or cooked into a greasy taco.
What’s your favorite way to eat a meat stick?
Max: I will put it on virtually everything, but my favorite is probably with our mac & cheese.
Alyssa: On a charcuterie board is a safe choice, but I think on pizza like pepperoni or crumbled into pasta.
Do you have any new products in the pipeline?
Max: We have a few ideas in development. I would love to get sticks in every gas station like Slim Jims. I also would like to have sausage patties for burgers—right now we do charcuterie sliders at pop ups, but I’d love to get to the point where you can use it for things like meatloaf or anything you’d use ground meat for. I want to show people that there are way more applications than just charcuterie.
Do you think as a culture we’ll ever get to the point where we won’t have to call these vegan foods “meats,” but could come up with a different name?
Alyssa: Ideally, yes, I think all the vegans in the world would like to not use the words “meat” and “milk,” and some brands are using the spelling “mylk” to distinguish it. But as a culture, I don’t think we’re there yet.
Photos courtesy of Meaty Max Vegan Meat Sticks