Editor's note: Read more about Columbus veggie burgers in this week's cover story.
The award-winning, brightly colored, plant-centric packages aren’t the only thing that’s new with Luna Burger. In August, the Columbus-based company became non-GMO certified by the non-GMO Project, the first in Ohio to earn the designation.
While the company decided early on to not focus on organic certification (they wanted to work with local farmers they trusted and who were “doing really great stuff sustainably,” said co-owner and co-founder Megan Luna), pursuing non-GMO certification was an easy decision.
“We feel really confident about where we’re sourcing our ingredients,” Megan said. “[The non-GMO certification] was an added layer of confidence we could give our customers. Even though we’re not going the organic route you can still have confidence in the ingredients we’re using.”
That their products contain, cumulatively, only a small number of whole foods (33 ingredients in six products, to be exact) helped the process go smoothly. The certification was also part of a natural progression, Megan said, from where the company began nearly five years ago.
“Social justice is a foundational concept for both of us (we’re both seminary graduates),” Megan said. “We feel like food is a justice issue. It’s definitely something that’s part of who we are and part of why we started the business and why we work with local farmers and want to work with real food and to get it to these people who want it and need it.”
A lot of Luna’s growth has come from this wholesome, holistic approach (not to mention the plant-centric flavor profiles that steer away from replicating meat-based burgers). Luna Burgers are currently in 164 restaurants, cafes, bars and grocery stores across 14 states.
“We didn’t realize when we started the business a lot of folks who are interested in our products are folks who had heart disease,” Megan said. “That’s been a growing surprise to us, to have [customers] in their 60s, 70s and 80s.”
“At first we thought because we really weren’t trying to be a meat replacement — we weren’t trying to be a veggie burger that tasted like meat — we wanted to showcase the plants we featured in our burger,” Megan said.