If you have ever had a vegan gyro or vegan bacon then you have had the pleasure of experiencing seitan. Pronounced say-tan, it is wheat gluten that is used as a meat analogue. It is a good source of protein, low in fat, contains no cholesterol and no one does it better the Upton’s Naturals. Located on 2054 W Grand Avenue, Upton’s Naturals produces a line of seitan products including dippers, bacon, and sliders. Upton’s Naturals Owner Daniel Staackmann took some time out to answer some questions regarding his Chicago vegan food and business.
Upton's Naturals is a very unique name. Can you explain the meaning behind it?
A friend had suggested Upton’s as a nod to our being in Chicago preparing vegan food...the opposite of what was occurring in the Upton Sinclair book, The Jungle, about 100 years prior. When I started the company I wanted there to be a name and a face to it, just not mine. Not that I am not proud of the products, I just don’t prefer the spotlight. The image of “Upton” (created by Johnny Sampson) and overall aesthetic seemed to be a good fit for the name and unique enough to not be confused with any other brands.
What is one misconception regarding vegan foods that the general public has?
With seitan specifically, that it’s fake. We produce real seitan, a product that is thousands of years old. There is no part of a cow that you slice off that tastes like sausage. The same goes for our main ingredient, wheat. It is all about how things are seasoned and prepared. For most people transitioning to a vegan diet it’s important to hold onto the familiar flavors they've grown to love and we try to make that easy to do.
What is the best part about owning a vegan food business in Chicago?
The same would apply to any geographical location, but simply being able to provide people with a good alternative to meat.
Are there any plans to come out with any new products in the future?
Currently, we are focusing on expanding our prepared foods line (meals, sandwiches, sides) and The Breakroom (the café attached to our headquarters).
For more information about Upton’s Naturals products or The Breakroom visit www.uptonsnaturals.com.