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Wholesome Crave, a for-profit food company, has become a leading supplier of plant-based meal solutions for large scale dining facilities. Born out of the desire to support the impactful work of Wholesome Wave, Wholesome Crave aims to enable long term food policy and cause-based advocacy through a plant-based approach to scaled food services.
“I wanted to leverage my four decades of experience to design a plant-based approach to scaled food service using real vegetables, grains, and legumes—along with cultural authenticity and respect – to field delicious products that help institutions address some of the most vexing challenges created by our current food system,” Michel Nischan, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Wholesome Crave, tells Food Tank. “Our products naturally address climate change, biodiversity, and cultural authenticity.”
In 2007, Nischan co-founded Wholesome Wave alongside food policy leader Gus Schumacher and American food writer Michael Batterberry. The nonprofit organization strives to address diet-related diseases by helping low-income Americans buy and eat healthy fruits and vegetables. Wholesome Wave partners with community-based organizations to raise and re-invest private funding through programs that meet the unique needs of each community. According to Nischan, Wholesome Crave can help Wholesome Wave meet the challenges of traditional philanthropy in sustaining long-haul initiatives.
“Policy advocacy is difficult to find funding for, so launching a for-profit food company to steer unrestricted, tax-free gross revenue royalties to Wholesome Wave was an opportunity we needed to pursue,” Nischan says.
Through selling responsibly sourced, plant-based soups into the marketplace, Wholesome Crave directly supports food policy advocacy, such as the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP) in the 2018 Farm Bill. Nischan believes that this model can reveal how food manufacturing for scaled environments can be designed for impact from the start.
“This provides Wholesome Wave with the unrestricted earned income it needs to continue its highly respected advocacy work to end nutrition insecurity and beyond,” Nischan says.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wholesome Crave focused exclusively on the corporate food service sector. However, when the pandemic disrupted their intentions to partner with other corporate accounts such as UBS and Morgan Stanley through Restaurant Associates, Wholesome Crave pivoted to establish an e-commerce platform to ensure the business’ survival. This allowed Wholesome Crave to extend its reach into the college and university sector, where a more certain return to regular business was anticipated that fall.
“We’re now in a dozen college and university institutions and counting, and corporate food service is finally showing signs of life,” Nischan says.
In February 2023, Wholesome Crave partnered with Nestlé Professional and the University of Massachusetts Dining Program to launch the Purpose-Driven Plant-Based Incubator. This partnership unites college and university food service operators in a collaborative effort to drive measurable, sustainable change in the food system by making culturally authentic, plant-forward options affordable and doable.
Wholesome Crave also recently announced a partnership with Anna Hammond’s Matriark Foods, allowing them to replace their organic vegetable base stock products with an upcycled vegetable mirepoix.
“Because soup is such a deliciously powerful platform where excess food can land, we will be looking at a variety of approaches to incorporate more into our products,” Nischan says.
As Wholesome Crave looks towards the future, Nischan says they hope to work with their Impact Board of Chefs to connect their customers with small-holder producers, supporting products like fonio, tepary beans, and indigenous heirloom corn. As they scale, Wholesome Crave is also looking to expand into other product categories beyond soup.
“The impact potential is stunning.” Nischan says. “When a facility that serves, say, 50,000 meals a day changes the onions they buy, they have a profound impact on the environment and local economy just through that one choice.”
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Photo Courtesy of Wholesome Crave.
Liza Greene is a Research Fellow at Food Tank. She graduated from Hamilton College with a BA in Sociology and Environmental Studies and is currently living in Utah. Her experiences working as a food access/garden education intern, participating in an agricultural research fellowship, and writing her community garden focused senior thesis have grounded her interests in food justice, agricultural sustainability, and community development.
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