Like most consumers, Cara Nicoletti has long known that vegetables are a growing part of American diets. Nicoletti also knows more consumers are concerned about sustainability and the environmental impacts of raising cattle, and that Americans’ meat consumption only continues to increase each year—while overall numbers of vegetarians and vegans remain static.
Seemore Meats & Veggies La Dolce Beeta earned the “Best New Retail Food” honors in Prepared Foods’ annual Spirit of Innovation (SOI) awards. Hear more of Seemore Meats & Veggies’ story when Prepared Foods hosts its SOI Awards ceremony on Wednesday, July 28 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. EDT.
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How does the average consumer weigh these variables and respond to these trends? Ah, that’s the story because Nicoletti, 35, is not the average consumer. A fourth generation butcher, this Brooklyn, N.Y., resident literally went to work to create a solution. And it’s truly been a labor of love in the story of Sausage Queen LLC, which debuted last year under the name and brand: Seemore Meats & Veggies.
The company sells five varieties of blended meat-and-veggie sausages. They include Broccoli Melt,
La Dolce Beet-A, Loaded Baked Potato, Bubbe’s Chicken Soup and Chicken Parm. The first four SKUs debuted in February 2020 and Chicken Parm joined the line-up this February. Three more flavors are in the works.
For her part, Nicoletti says her story and business date back more than a decade as a labor of love.
“I started making these sausages about 10 years ago in butcher shops in Brooklyn as a way to get customers to eat slightly less meat. I was creating these sausages that were modeled after meals (such as Chicken Soup and Chicken Parm) and filling them with fresh vegetables. The idea took off immediately. Yet it was not necessarily because of the vegetables but because they were delicious and the flavors were creative.
“I didn’t fully understand the science of what I was doing at the time, so in the beginning there were a lot of mushy, underwhelming sausages,” she admits. “I would say it took me a solid five years to really nail it. The scale up to launching Seemore (in 2020) took about two years.”
A large part of the challenge, of course, involved product development.
“Scientifically, it’s incredibly difficult to add large amounts of liquid to a sausage without the bind breaking. Since vegetables are mostly water—it was extremely difficult to add such a high percentage of them to our sausages while still maintaining the taste, look and mouthfeel of a traditional sausage,” she says. “When you see sausages on the shelf that have spinach or tomatoes in them, those vegetables are dried and make up a tiny percentage of the total product, which makes it easy to mix them in. I can’t share exactly how we overcame this scientific barrier but I can say that it took me a solid decade of experimenting and failing and learning as much as I could about meat science. I needed to find completely natural ways around it that make our product superior to other blended products on the market.”
Prepared Foods’ Spirit of Innovation award judges sampled La Dolce Beet-a sausages with pork, fresh beets, garlic, and fennel. Seemore Meats & Veggies’ Loaded Baked Potato sausage includes pork, potatoes, cheddar cheese, uncured bacon bits, and chives. The company’s newest Chicken Parm sausage has chicken, roasted tomatoes, basil, cheese, and toasted breadcrumbs.
Nicoletti says the next biggest obstacle—beyond formulation—involved finding a co-packer.
“I went to nearly one hundred meat packers to ask for their help and they all refused. They all said that the product would fail, that consumers wouldn’t be interested in it, that it was too difficult to make. Making this hurdle even bigger is the fact that the industry is male-dominated and my partner and I—and the rest of the team at Seemore—are women. We got incredibly good at entering these rooms full of non-believers and making them believe in us. Eventually we convinced two co-packers to take us on.”
Tasting is believing. After launching in 2020, Seemore Meats & Veggies now ships products to more than 200 Whole Foods Market locations nationwide, in addition to as many as 130 independent grocers. Its products also may be purchased through FreshDirect, and shipped direct-to-consumer via www.eatseemore.com.