When cousins Jude Goldman and Reuben Schwartz were brainstorming ideas for a line of condiments, they immediately thought beyond memorable flavor; they also wanted their line of seasonings, rubs and sauces to have some noticeable undercurrents of nourishment. Enter Vital Eats, a menagerie of imaginatively fashioned condiments the pair began making in 2013 that are vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free. The cousins say the move to create flavors that are unusual, perhaps even bold, was deliberate.
“A mentor and fellow food creator once said to me, ‘Don’t just create what people want, create what people need.’ I loved that,” recalls Goldman. Condiments, it seemed to the duo, were something whose demand never waned with time and always outlived passing food fads, so the choice was obvious.
Among their top-selling sauces is King Ketchup, the cousins’ unique riff on America’s most used condiment. Vital Eats’ version is infused with brown sugar and apple cider vinegar, while the intensely spicy Ghost King Ketchup isn’t for the faint of heart. The Tsunami Umami promises a ketchup “reinvented from the ground up for the contemporary palate.”
Vital Eats’ spices follow creative suit. “The Baharat and Za’atar are modern interpretations of spice blends that are thousands of years old,” says Schwartz. “The Redneck Rub and Legendary Love are creations we made just for Vital Eats.” And then there’s the groundbreaking, chickpea-based vegan cheese sauce. “It’s pretty amazing considering our line is plant-based, vegan, soy-free, gluten-free, dairy-free and nut-free,” says Goldman. “We developed a cheese sauce high in protein and low in fat that dairy-and nut-free people can enjoy.”
Prices for sauces and condiments are $8 per bottle or jar. Ketchup bottles are 12.5 ounces and hot sauces are 5.25 ounces.
Vital Eats products are sold around the world via online sales. But it’s when they’re shown at farmers’ markets in Saratoga Springs and Troy that they dazzle crowds with a deep fryer and a little vegan wizardry, including their signature ribbon-thin French fries, crispy falafel, kimchi fries and veggie burgers.
Their biggest seller by far at the markets are the French fries, which Goldman describes as a “no-brainer because all demographics like them: young, old, vegan or carnivores. And they’re a great canvas for sauces and spices as well.” Customers can top their fries with their choice of King Ketchup, King Kick Sriracha Ketchup or Tsunami Umami Ketchup.
A close second in prepared food sales is Vital Eats’ falafel recipe, developed by Schwartz, that’s derived from raw, sprouted chickpeas. “We wanted to serve some entrée options, so the falafel was a natural choice,” explains Schwartz. “And we’ve been getting rave reviews on it, as we have with our kimchi fries. Served with our Killa Kimchi hot sauce, they’ve been described as ‘culinary utopia,’” says Schwartz with a grin.
“We don’t push, sell or promote a specific dietary regime. We eat mostly vegan diets but we aren’t vegans,” explains Goldman. “We believe dietary needs are specific to the individual. We believe that eating healthy, fresh, local, unprocessed ingredients is a crucial part of a healthy diet. Eating in a responsible, sustainable manner and listening to your own body’s needs are what we feel are most important.”
“Reuben and I are a good team in terms of recipe development,” explains Goldman. “He has a very sensitive palate and a good working sense of what the common population enjoys, where I have a bold sense for pushing the envelope for cultural culinary fusion, and a sixth sense to predict eating trends. ‘Umami’ is now a word now that is gaining popularity in the food culture and even becoming a household term. Developing some products that are comfortable and recognizable along with some bold visionary products is really what we are about.”
To find out more visit VitalEats.com.