Daily Breeze: Some Laemmle Theaters Are Going Vegan with Gluten-Free, Non-GMO Nuggets

Daily Breeze: Some Laemmle Theaters Are Going Vegan with Gluten-Free, Non-GMO Nuggets

By Bob Strauss

Sure seems like a natural.

Laemmle Theatres, the Southern California cinema chain that’s specialized in art, independent and foreign films for more than 80 years, is going vegan.

Concession stands at Laemmle’s Glendale and Monica Film Center now stock Fry’s Rice Protein and Chia Nuggets, and the chicken-substitute hot treats will be coming soon to the NoHo 7 in North Hollywood. Made by the South Africa-based Fry Family Food Company, the nuggets are non-GMO and gluten-free – and, hopefully, taste like chicken.

“I would say texture-wise it’s pretty similar, and they taste great!” Caitlin Kleppinger, concessions manager for the Laemmle chain and a vegetarian, said. “I haven’t had a chicken nugget in awhile, but these are very good.”

Although such items as Alternative Baking Company’s vegan cookies, vegan snack packs and vegan puffed water lily seeds (think Cheetos, but good for you) have been available at various Laemmle locations for awhile, the Fry’s Nuggets are the first hot vegan snack the theaters are offering. Kleppinger hopes that the company’s vegan hot dogs will be on some of their menus soon, as well.

“We are thrilled to have our food served at Laemmle Theatres — great food and great storytelling brings people together and that is a message we feel strongly about,” Tammy Fry, the plant-based food brand’s global marketing director, said in a press release.

Not that anyone should stereotype the discerning cineastes who make up Laemmle’s core audience as a uniformly plant-eating demographic, though. Kleppinger said that omnivorous moviegoers who wanted healthier snack options as well as those who keep a strict plant-based diet have been requesting more vegan options in the past year.

“Maybe it’s just because we’re a smaller company, but our customers do tend to be more vocal about what they want from our menu than, maybe, they are at one of the bigger chains,” Kleppinger reckoned. “I don’t know if that just encourages our vegan customers to tell us that they want more options or if we have more vegan customers. I’m not sure, but they’re definitely a vocal group, and they let you know when they want you to start carrying something.”

While the massive AMC theater chain mentioned concession stand things like popcorn without butter as vegan options, its AMC DINE-IN locations use vegan core burger buns and offer Dr. Praeger’s Vegan Black Bean Patties as meat substitutes for several sandwiches and bowls. The international chain Cinepolis noted that the edamame and spring rolls at its recently opened, luxury Bay Theatre in Pacific Palisades are vegan, and a number of vegetarian items are available there as well. Like Laemmle’s, Cinepolis’ menu choices vary from theater to theater.

While she said audience requests were a key motivator for bringing in vegan snacks, Kleppinger acknowledged that Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz’s motion in December to mandate all movie theaters and other large-scale entertainment and sports venues, as well as LAX, offer some vegan food options, let them know they were on the right track.

“The percentage of people that eat vegan has gone up 600%, and so to be able to give them an option and not have them trapped at the airport without being able to eat, or stadiums or other venues, this gives them that opportunity to be included,” Fifth District councilman Koretz said in a video linked from his website.

Fry’s first contacted Laemmle a week or so before Koretz’s office did about his vegan motion, Kleppinger recalled. Koretz’s proposal has not yet been scheduled for committee.

“It wasn’t a major impetus, but it was a nice coincidence in timing,” she said. “We were starting to look at more vegan options anyway. And it definitely is something that we try and keep ahead of, with everything like the plastics ban in Santa Monica to this new vegan initiative from the L.A. City Council. We try and stay ahead of that so that we’re not scrambling at the last minute to change something in our theaters.”

Despite all this, carnivorous Southern California cineastes have nothing to be concerned about.

Laemmle concession menus list the Fry’s product as vegan “chicken” nuggets, with quotation marks to make their nature as clear as possible to customers.

“And we do have chicken strips as well,” Kleppinger reassured.

Source: Glendale News-Press