WICKED PLANTS: A Wicked Kitchen stand pictured at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach in Southern California.
Best Sustainability Offering
Wicked Kitchen is breaking the mold on ice cream and other concession favorites with 100 percent plant-based offerings available in nearly 30 U.S. venues – and growing.
The global food brand, operating in the U.S., U.K. and Thailand, has partnered with ASM Global’s SAVOR concessions division, which has highlighted a fixed amount of Wicked Kitchen items that are distributed to select SAVOR locations. That number is trending up, too.
“When we started this process, we looked at a lot of different groups,” said Shaun Beard, ASM Global senior vice president of food and beverage. “Our mission was to create delicious, awesome food that also happens to be plant-based, but flavor comes first. Wicked Kitchen not only understands flavor and taste and texture, they understand and know how to execute that mission in collaboration with our culinary teams at the venues.”
“We are on this inspiring, people-eat-more-plants journey and we are going to use flavor-first culinary to do that,” explained Pete Speranza, CEO of Wicked Kitchen. “With ASM, those guys are in it to win it and see the future as well. To get into 30 locations in 18 months is unheard of in food service. And we were able to do it that quickly because of their passion for change and putting more plant-based food on their menus.”
Wicked Kitchen launched its U.S. hospitality program in November 2022 with the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Target Center in Minneapolis, where the company is based. The plant-powered company has since expanded to the Toyota Arena and Los Angeles’ Greek Theatre and continued successfully throughout other ASM Global venues including Long Beach Convention Center, Wintrust Arena, Ontario Convention Center, Moscone Center and Moscone West, Jacksonville venues Prime Osborn CC, Jacksonville Center for the Performing Arts and VyStar Arena, and more. Wicked Kitchen hopes to be in 40 venues next year.
Featured menu items include sandwiches, sausages, burgers, pizzas, pastas, appetizers, main dishes and ice cream, made entirely of plant-based ingredients. The items are designed to make plant-based eating appealing to meat eaters as well as vegans.
“When people go to stadiums they typically want to indulge and enjoy and celebrate, and we have food and products that go along those lines,” Speranza said. “When you have our meatball sub, you just know you are eating a Wicked meatball sub, you’re not thinking ‘plant-based.’”
Wicked Kitchen was created in 2017 by respected chefs and New England-natives brothers Derek and Chad Sarno as a real-world expression of their personal mission to make a difference through more sustainable and enticing plant-based meal solutions. The chef-driven company provides a range of convenient meals, desserts, ingredients and snacks in more than 15,000 retailers including Kroger and Sprouts Farmers Market in the U.S. and online.
Speranza, who was an executive at General Mills for nearly 23 years before joining Wicked Kitchen in 2020, said the need to offer plant-powered food flourished during the last decade and during the pandemic when companies were increasingly concerned about sustainability and best practices.
“They were looking for more variety that included plant-based food, which was a motivating factor, and in general they were looking at a corporate scorecard and thinking, ‘We haven’t been thinking about food the way we should be in the stadium.’ Food is a big enabler for sustainability that goes beyond looking at the building, or the turf, or the paper they use in the bathrooms.”