One of Nicole Atchison’s core values is to do something with her life that helps others live better. For the first phase of her career that meant earning a PhD in biomedical engineering and working in the medical device industry. “But I noticed a lot of what we do in medical technology is treat disease. In a lot of cases those diseases could be addressed before they start through a more nutritious diet,” she explained.
Atchison was familiar with the benefits of plant-based eating. Her parents had founded PURIS, a company dedicated to producing sustainable food from plants, in 1985. And she knew her family wanted to expand the company from being an agriculture and ingredient-focused company to include a consumer-facing component.
“That was my motivation. I can help my family build and scale their company while helping people,” she said. “If you can bring people delicious food that’s good for them and good for the planet, to me that’s a hat trick.”
Atchison now serves as the CEO of Minneapolis-based PURIS Holdings as well as AcreMade, the business’s consumer-facing arm. AcreMade’s first product, which launched in fall 2022, is a plant-based egg substitute.
AcreMade’s plant-based eggs differ from other egg substitutes in a few key ways. To begin with, most egg substitutes are designed for baking; AcreMade’s product works well in baked goods, but it also can be used to make egg-based dishes like scrambles, quiche and French toast. In addition, it’s shelf-stable and free of the top nine allergens and GMOs.
However, the most unique feature of AcreMade is that it’s made from peas, which have nutritional and environmental benefits. (Atchison specified that AcreMade uses yellow field peas, a legume that’s slightly different from the familiar fresh green vegetable.)
“Yellow peas have the capacity to make their own fertilizer, which actually reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers,” she explained. “Peas also deliver a high level protein per acre, and plant proteins have a lower carbon footprint than animal protein.” She noted that AcreMade’s peas are grown and processed in the United States, lowering the product’s carbon footprint by eliminating overseas transportation.
AcreMade plant-based eggs aren’t just part of Atchison’s professional life; they’re also a go-to meal in her personal life. “I’m a convenience-centric cook, I have two young kids and a busy life,” she said. “My favorite way [to eat our plant-based egg] is to microwave it, then you can throw it on some toast with avocado, salt and pepper. I probably have it four to five times per week, the microwave makes it so quick and easy.”
Currently, customers can purchase individual pouches and larger packages of AcreMade’s plant-based eggs at Lakewinds Food Co-op locations in the Twin Cities metro and on Amazon. AcreMade is also on the menu at a handful of Minnesota restaurants, including a vegan banana bread pudding at Minnetonka’s Duke’s on 7 and a vegan egg biscuit sandwich at The Block Food + Drink in St. Louis Park.
Looking to the future, Atchison is excited for the upcoming launch of additional products that make AcreMade plant-based eggs even easier to prepare, as well as expanding the wholesale business.
“I have an egg sensitivity, and there are not many options at restaurants for people who don’t eat eggs, especially at breakfast,” she said. “I’d love to see more options for plant-based eaters and people with egg allergies on menus, especially for comfort foods like French toast.”
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