Lee Cooper, Founder/CEO of Barvecue, vegetarian of over 30 years and most recently full-vegan, talks to us about the history of Barvecue and its planned launch of the world’s largest plant-based smokehouse.

Lee Cooper, Founder/CEO of Barvecue, vegetarian of over 30 years and most recently full-vegan, talks to us about the history of Barvecue and its planned launch of the world’s largest plant-based smokehouse.

vWire: Tell us about your decision to become vegan and how it has impacted your life.

Cooper: My journey began over 30 years ago. My wife learned about animal testing in a passing comment from a friend, which later opened her eyes to factory farming. She immediately became a vegetarian and I would soon follow. A summer road trip to Farm Sanctuary opened my eyes further and was a watershed moment as I dropped meat from my diet. Fast forward 3 decades and I’ve dropped dairy and eggs as my now vegan journey continues. These decisions along the way have impacted every facet of my life. I’ve been exposed to an amazing variety of food, connected with animals, and realized internal satisfaction striving to live a conscious, compassionate, and impactful life.

You’ve successfully created a vegan alternative to a southern favorite, what has the feedback been like from both vegan and non-vegan audiences?

We are constantly amazed with the reactions of people from all walks of life. Vegans and non-vegans are thrilled and intrigued that we provide a vegan alternative so comparable in taste and texture to its traditional meat counterpart. Even meat-eaters are blown away by mouthwatering, wood-smoked Barvecue.

Barvecue was launched in 2017, how has it grown since then and where do you see the company in 5 more years (2026)?

We formed the company in late 2017, opened our start-up facility May 2018, and set off on two years of product innovation and local proof of concept. We completed a capital raise in 2020 that gave us additional resources to begin the commercialization phase to scale and target national accounts in retail and foodservice. This summer we will open the world’s largest plant-based smokehouse as we begin to launch in stores and restaurants nationwide. Over the next 3-5 years we want to share Barvecue with the world and make an impact as the leading brand of plant-based barbecue.

It is well-known that the benefits of veganism are endless – not only to personal health, environmentalism and of course to the animals. How do you feel about personally making an impact by offering a delicious plant-based alternative to meat?

It’s incredibly exciting and internally rewarding to see people excited about Barvecue for all of those reasons. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to be a small part of the enormous changes taking place to eventually remove factory farmed animals from the global food system.

In your opinion, how has the vegan movement evolved since you launched Barvecue and what do you see for its (the vegan movement) future?

When we launched Barvecue the vegan movement was growing, and the plant-based space was beginning to really take off. Plant-based dairy was going mainstream and plant-based meat was close behind. Beyond Meat went public in 2019 and everything accelerated. The vegan community has grown tremendously as a result of increased public awareness and the availability of so many great tasting vegan products. It will remain on that upward trajectory as vegetarians and flexitarians continue to be attracted by all the new products that will displace their animal-derived counterparts.

With so many of the bigger not-vegan companies moving into this space, how do you see the landscape changing for vegan companies in the competitive space?

The bar will raise for everyone as competition increases, but I also think opportunities will exponentially expand for vegan companies. Vegan companies will continue to bring innovation to the space and capital will be available to foster that innovation. Bigger companies will provide essential supply chain, production, and distribution resources as their thinking evolves with awareness and market-driven demand.

For more about Barvecue, visit https://Barvecue.com.