I am such a huge fan of Food For Lovers Queso, I have blogged about it probably 10 times and have mentioned it on twitter, I don’t know, every day? Last year I voted it my favorite new vegan product. The queso makes everything taste better and it is a total obsession. I have never really liked any vegan cheese product but their queso is different, smooth, creamy, noochy, spicy and utterly delicious. I met the creators Chris and Crystal just this year, though I have “known” Crystal for many years from reading her blog Vegan Explosion, and from posting on the PPK and VRA. I have watched the entire process of them setting up their business, making amazing queso, and getting distribution slowly starting in Austin and moving throughout the world. They are always working hard to promote veganism, help animals, and improve the vegan community in Austin.
I remember waiting for the queso to hit the stores last summer. I would check every time I went to Wheatsville and at Whole Foods and one day I noticed a new locally made product, Nacho Mom’s Vegan Queso. I was really surprised because I hadn’t heard anything about another vegan queso, certainly not another one from Austin Texas so it seemed really strange. I also thought it was weird that her label was similar to the Food For Lover’s design with the heart and the banner. I mean, I wouldn’t think of hearts and queso usually go together normally, it only makes sense in the context of Chris & Crystal being so crazy in love.
Also, I had never heard of Nacho Mom and I follow the Austin vegan scene pretty closely. They were billing themselves as the “world famous vegan queso”. To me, the world famous one was obviously Chris and Crystals. People talk about it all the time.
Now, today I am completely disgusted. I read on Crystal and Chris’ facebook the whole story, with links and the timeline, that seems to prove that Nacho mom didn’t just copy their idea, they might have stolen the recipe to begin with and even might have actively tried to hold off production of Food For Lover’s product which made it second to the market place after the holdups.
According to them, Chris & Crystal met with Whole Foods on June 1, 2010. I even remember her excitedly posting about it because on the same day they launched the site and the label design. Whole Foods told them to get in contact with Gourmet Resources, a food manufacturer here in Austin and they met the owner Alex Weeks. They had to submit their recipe along with an NDA (non disclosure agreement) so they could determine the cost per bottle and create the recipe in larger quantities. They all signed the NDA on June 8th, 2010.
After that they started testing the recipe and things got problematic. They said they would submit a recipe and then the batch would turn out badly because the manufacturer miscalculated something. They couldn’t figure out why things kept going wrong, and it seemed that Alex was avoiding them and after blowing a ton of money they switched to another manufacturing company at the end of July. They even had to get a lawyer “to request she send over all documents/recipes/formulas belonging to us.”
Then at the beginning of August they were told by their buyer that another company, Fat Goblin, had approached them with a new vegan queso. So they started to research this new company. Here I am going to quote directly from FB what they found:
– FatGoblin.com was started on June 17th, 2010.
– The WHOIS Registry states FatGoblin.com, NachoMoms.com and VeganQueso.com is owned by “Chef Alana at 5416 Agatha Circle”:
– Chef Alana’s full name is Alana Leigh Chandler. If you google Alana Chandler and Alex Weeks you will find this article about the home they own together:(Source: http://igreenbuild.com/cd_3156.aspx)
– Here is Alana:
– And here is Alex and Alana together:
– You can see Alana talk about her partner Alex and her business here: (Source: http://www.olivia.com/Connect/forums/3/106750/ShowThread.aspx)
I don’t know what fat goblin could possibly say in their defense, I hope they speak up. The thing is, Crystal posted every single bit of her whole experience of creating the company on the internet. It is all right there on twitter for anyone to see. For years I have watched as she came up with the recipe, when it became so freaking popular, when they started selling it at Bouldin Creek, to when they had that meeting with Whole Foods. They have worked so hard to make such an amazing product.
It is such an outrage that anyone might do this to them If it turns out that the story is true I hope that Whole Foods, Wheatsville,
Food Fight, Vegan Essentials, and all the people who sell a product from such a shady company will have the integrity to stop carrying it. [Ed cause Food Fight already stopped carrying it!]
My first reaction was that I wanted to break every jar of Nacho Mama’s that I see.
Then I got worried that I would get kicked out of the co-op so instead I am just going to write some letters and buy some queso.
I hope that you will too.
If you want to support Chris and Crystal buy some queso for the holidays. They have a gift pack with adorable ornaments and queso cozies. And if you live in South Austin, like me they carry it at the Live Oak market now, thank goodness.
Update 12-21-2011 If you want to read the other side of the story, Nacho Mom writes a lot in the comments below. I am closed the comments now because I feel like everyone has had a chance to say what they want to and it is tough to moderate on vacation.