Over the past few years, a new top contender has emerged in the field of goofy names for everyday foods: nuggs. Like tendies, apps, and ‘za before them, nuggs have entered the lexicon, for the sake of making an already commonly kid-friendly item sound even more so, somehow. It just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? (Yes, it’s also a weed thing, we know. Let’s move on.)
Now, however, the sovereignty of “nuggs” as a shorthand for high-processed chunks of what could charitably be described as chicken is under threat of endangerment, thanks to a new startup called NUGGS (caps theirs, not ours), which bills itself in a press release as “the world’s first chicken nugget startup.” Let’s be honest, here: when we think “nuggs,” we’re not thinking vegan nuggets, delicious though they might be. Nuggs = chicken nuggets, full stop. It’s a 1-1 connection. To pretend otherwise is to disrupt the natural order of things.
With funding from manufacturer McCain Foods, NUGGS aims to develop, improve upon, and eventually mass-release “a nugget that uses an advanced texturized pea protein technology to create a nugget with the best texture, crunch and taste.” Pea protein has been one of the most common components of the recent wave of vegan meat substitutes like Beyond Meat.
While NUGGS is hardly the first company to commence work on vegan nuggets, it might be the first one to be founded by a 19-year-old. “Tech wunderkind and entrepreneur Ben Pasternak,” as billed, will oversee what the press release refers to as “the intersection of food and the internet.” The millennial calling cards hardly stop there, especially when it comes to Pasternak’s team: “Head of Product is 20-year-old Liam Mullen, a self-taught molecular gastronomist who worked at Michelin Star restaurant Daniel as a pastry chef at the age of 16. Twenty-year-old social media maven Alex Michelle, with 6 million Instagram followers across her accounts, is Head of Growth.”
NUGGS are currently only available on a direct-to-consumer basis, with boxes purchasable through their official site, although the company plans to expand to retail and restaurants over time. But whether they succeed or struggle, they’ll still be the company that tried to take “nuggs” away from the world’s carnivores. Not happening under our watch, if we have anything to do with it.