New plant-based brand from Vancouver bags retailers with “chicken” Om Noms

Yumasoy's Om Nom products are available online and in stores across B.C.

A few years ago, I tried going vegan for a week. Riled up by documentaries like Cowspiracy and books like Ruth Ozeki’s My Year of Meats, I was determined to cut meat out of my diet. But despite living in Vancouver, where plant-based alternatives are more readily available than other cities I’ve lived in, I struggled: I was spending more money, I still felt hungry, and I couldn’t figure out what a balanced plant-based plate should look like. So I gave up.  

It’s a tale as old as—well, the decade of 2010, when conversations around meat and the ideal diet really started turning heads. Around the same time as my own experiment, in 2019, Digital Supercluster’s chief financial officer Gina Arsens was also moved by a Netflix documentary about plant-based diets: What the Health. She recalls her husband Cameron Carter adamantly declaring that there was no way they would ever put “that stuff” (as in meat) in their mouths again. 

“I agreed, but I didn’t find good stuff,” says Arsens, who is of Greek heritage. “A lot of food had ingredients that I didn’t recognize, the healthy stuff wasn’t very delicious, my kids didn’t like it and I just found it to be quite a miserable experience.” 

After all, who really has time to press and marinate tofu? “It’s like you have to learn a whole other language,” Arsens adds, pointing out that most people are just looking for something quick, easy and delicious. She started her own experiment on the side, and after a year of research and development, left her position at the Digital Supercluster to launch Yumasoy Foods (pronounced “Yum-a-soy,” derived from the Greek word “Yamas,” which means “to our health”) in 2022. 

Plant-based yellow curry Om Noms by Yumasoy Foods

“We have a product called Om Noms—it’s a marinated plant-based meat alternative,” says Arsens. The soy-based chicken-style strips come in flavours like teriyaki, mediterranean herb and yellow curry, and they’re available both online and in stores across like Whole Foods, Fresh St. and IGA. “And you’ll recognize everything in that ingredient list,” she promises. 

At $8.99 per 150 grams, Om Noms are made with non-GMO soybeans, coconut sugar instead refined sugar and olive oil instead of canola oil. And despite so many other plant-based alternatives popping up on restaurant menus and flooding grocery store shelves over the last few years, Arsens was still able to triple production from one million grams of Om Noms in 2022 to three million in 2023.  

It’s been a validating journey so far, she says, especially seeing her picky-eater daughter dig in. Like most people, Arsens isn’t a fan of strict diets: while she can’t remember the last time she ate meat herself, she’s all for convenience and flexibility with food. So she’s excited by the fact that Om Noms—which cook in five minutes—seem to be hitting different demographics the right way: men, women, kids and everyone in between.  

Okay, fine. I’ll give it a try.