Costco just debuted a ready-made bolognese that features plant-based protein across more than 50 locations in Hawaii and the Los Angeles areas. The wholesale retailer unveiled its Chef Ayinde Howell’s Brooklyn Bolognese that features a rigatoni pasta coated by a bolognese complete with vegan beef, tomatoes, fennel, and fresh herbs. The plant-based meal is also topped with Violife’s parmesan cheese. Howell – who worked as the personal chef for the musician India. Arie developed the classic Italian dish inspired by his time living in Brooklyn, NY.
“Red pasta sauce was one of the first things that I learned to cook with my parents. I call this dish Brooklyn Bolognese because when I first moved to Brooklyn, New York in my mid-2000s, I didn’t have much money, but pasta and the red sauce was an easy meal I could afford,” Howell told VegNews. “I wasn’t working as a chef yet, so this filling meal kept me going for half the week. It’s simple and, most importantly, it’s comforting. Just add some garlic bread and a salad, and you’ve got a full meal. From my home to yours, it brings me great joy to share my Brooklyn Bolognese with you and your loved ones.”
The wholesale company has been developing its plant-based options over recent years, releasing several products that showcase new and innovative vegan ingredients. Before developing the vegan bolognese, Howell launched a take-and-bake Jalapeno & Cheddar Mac & Yease across 30 locations in California and Hawaii. The vegan mac and cheese is originally inspired by Howell’s grandmother, but he began reinventing it to reach out to plant-based consumers at his restaurant in Seattle.
“My great-grandmother, Mary Fluker, used to make baked mac and cheese in St. Stephens, Alabama, and my father loved it so much that when he went vegan before I was born, he wanted me to have it,” Howell told VegNews, “In my first cafe in Seattle 22 years ago, I started selling, cooking, and refining Mac & Yease to what it is today.”
Following positive feedback from the Jalapeno & Cheddar iteration, Costco announced that the chef’s Original Mac & Yease would expand to approximately 100 locations in the southeast United States. The vegan mac debuted for a limited six-week release for the trial period. Howell claims that the plant-based product will return to store locations across California by December.
Costco became the first retailer to feature Howell’s Jalapeno & Cheddar Mac & Yease, but the chef’s signature products previously appeared on the market. Howell originally debuted his vegan Mac & Yease at Whole Foods Market in 2018. The partnership featured the plant-based mac and cheese at the beloved Whole Foods hot-food bar at 44 locations across California, Arizona, Las Vegas, Oahu, and Maui.
Following the success, the supermarket company expanded the vegan mac and cheese offering at select locations in Northern California for a limited time in 2019. The company also included Howell’s dish in the company’s vegan Thanksgiving pre-made meals.
During the Black Lives Matter protests, Chef Howell announced that his Mac and Yease brand would donate 5 percent of its annual net sales to activist organizations that support Black communities nationwide for 30 years. The chef also promised that he would match the donation with his own personal salary income. Some organizations include Black Lives Matter, the Bail Project, and many others.
The rigatoni arrives at the heels of Costco’s recent partnership with the vegan dairy giant Violife. Last month, the plant-based cheese company rollout out bulk packages of its dairy-free mozzarella, Colby Jack, and cheddar shreds and slices at locations across the United States. The partnership is a joint effort to bring cheaper, more accessible plant-based options to a broader consumer base nationwide.
“We’re very excited to continue expanding our plant-based cheese offerings in Costco stores,” Violife General Manager Andy Reichgut told VegNews. “Violife is the fastest growing and leading vegan cheese brand in the US because our delicious vegan cheeses melt, cook, and taste like dairy cheese. By partnering with Costco, we are able to introduce Violife products to more consumers whether they are vegan or just looking to add more plant-based foods into their favorite recipes or diet.”
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