Little Rock chef Alicia Watson, owner of culinary wellness company Vito and Vera, recently followed through on a promise to expand her plant-based business to Northwest Arkansas.
This spring, Watson said she would invest winnings from a pitch competition at The Jones Center in Springdale to grow her business in the area. Recently, three of her plant-based products became available at Ozark Natural Foods Co-Op in Fayetteville, including Vito’s Deconstructed Lasagna, Big Bertha’s Fat Stack and Mighty Loaf.
“It was so surreal,” she said about seeing the products in a store cooler. They’re the first products she’s offered at retail. Her business in Little Rock comprises meals-to-go delivered throughout central Arkansas.
She said she worked with the University of Arkansas to sign off on the products’ nutritional values. The items, which are about $15 each, are packaged as a single serving, but she said because of how dense they are, they can serve up to two people.
Watson said the three items were selected because they allow others to become engaged with plant-based products with which people are familiar.
“An enchilada fat stack is kind of commonplace where when people eat that you’re not having to educate them on what the item is,” she said. “The Mighty Loaf is meatloaf, and it’s got a parsnip puree. And everybody loves that.”
She said she served the lasagna at a vendor fair at the Co-Op earlier this year. Participants of business development program Cureate Courses attended the fair to allow others to sample their goods.
Watson won the pitch competition after completing the program for food and beverage entrepreneurs hosted by business consultant Cureate and FORGE Inc., a revolving community loan fund that’s based in Huntsville. She also recently won Food Network TV show “Big Restaurant Bet.”