Family takes over Meet the Alternative

·3 min read

THUNDER BAY, ONT. — Allison and James McLellan, and their son Liam, 2, have embarked on a family adventure with the purchase of Meet the Alternative, a plant-based meat and cheese production business.

They market their products in Thunder Bay food stores and restaurants.

The McLellan family purchased the business from founders Tammy and Derek Sawyer, who started the Thunder Bay company in 2019 to serve a growing number of consumers choosing veganism and vegetarianism over dairy and meat.

The McLellans hit the ground running. With orders already placed, the Sawyers helped the McLellans build their footing, and the magic began in their kitchen.

Allison McLellan said her family was already familiar with Meet the Alternative products and had been purchasing the plant-based products for their own consumption.

“When we saw it was for sale, we just jumped on the chance to do this,” she said. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is like a sign.’ I want to do this because I love being in the kitchen and trying new recipes and cooking for other people. I have a passion for cooking and yeah, it felt right.”

The last few weeks since they took over the company have been a whirlwind, but Allison said they received great support from the Sawyers during the transition. She said the Sawyers showed them the whole process of making the products and passed along the orders that they already had in place.

Things began running so smoothly that Allison explored little expansion within their market circle. With sales established at Compass Food, Westfort Foods, Superior Seasons (located in Goods and Co.), Bonobo’s Foods, Eat Local Pizza and The Foundry, she has since added Kelly’s Nutrition and George’s Market to her growing client list.

“They had a few orders to fulfil and we’re just trying to do a smooth transition and not make anything different for anyone,” she said.

“We want to leave everything the same.”

Allison described the process. With two kitchens in her home, one is designated for the business. It has received a stamp of approval from an inspection by the Thunder Bay District Health Unit and meets all health and safety protocols.

“We make plant-based or vegan meat and cheese that are deli-style with lots of different flavours,” she said. “We have more than eight varieties of cheese from mozzarella to cheddar and five different types of meat including turkey, beef and pepperoni. Our goal is to recreate the taste and the texture of real meat and cheese.”

She said their product is “pretty bang on,” and claims it’s been a few years since she has actually eaten meat or cheese.

“Between ingredients and spices, it just somehow works together and it recreates it so closely,” she added. “We source food ingredients locally from The Bulk Zone and the Bulk Barn.

The McLellan family chose to eat healthier and chose a vegan-style diet that has worked very well for them.

“We just don’t eat dairy and meat,” she said. “I’m always in the kitchen and I’m making sure that we get a variety of whole foods. There are so many other sources to get your protein and iron other than meat and dairy.”

Allison says with their production line running smoothly, there is more room to grow.

“I love the whole local thing and the festivals that we have,” she said. “Right now we’re just trying to get into the groove of things, just figuring out everything, getting organized and getting our customer base.”

Their plant-based items will be featured at upcoming city events, festivals and markets.

Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal

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