Big Food Goes ‘Indie’: ConAgra Has a Food Truck

ConAgra is not hip.

The food giant, which boasts that its products are found in 97 percent of America’s homes, presents itself as wholesome, family-friendly, and reliable. But cool? Trendy? Hip? Swiss Miss, Egg Beaters, Chef Boyardee and other brands in the corporate arsenal aren’t exactly enticing to the Brooklyn (borough and aesthetic) crowd.

No, the hipster set is more interested in food brands with Pinterest boards filled with glutinous plates of #inspiration, and Instragram feeds showing beautiful people eating food at pop-up shops, graffiti expos, dive bars and outdoor concert venues, the shots awash in the faded pastels of faux techno-nostalgia. They want polyglot dishes that speak of a globalized world authentically—not P.F. Chang’s (another ConAgra brand).

Basically, everything cool in food (circa 2008) can be wrapped up in one compact, mobile unit: the gourmet food truck.

Take Wicked Kitchen, a Los Angeles-based operation that launched last fall. There’s a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef behind the grill, the menu jumps geopolitical boarders with ease, and the dishes bear pun-y names like Don’t Lose Your Tempura and I Pity the Tofu’l.

Wicked Kitchen truck hits the streets in less than two weeks...u ready for some seriously bold #gourmet dishes from around the world?

— Wicked Kitchen (@WickedKitchn) October 23, 2012

And there’s an origin story too, an integral marker of authenticity for anyone joining the Food Truck Movement. To wit:

The whole adventure started some time ago when a few foodies at ConAgra Foods became interested in the growing popularity of street food and began taking “work-related trips” to places like LA, New York, and Miami to dive mouth first into all the gourmet food they could find. They ate their way through local hot spots and gourmet food trucks, often long into the night. Tough job, right?

The “About” section on Wicked Kitchen’s blog (hosted by Tumblr, naturally) doesn’t make it clear if launching the truck involved leaving ConAgra, but clears that matter up: “On Friday, August 03, 2012, a U.S. federal trademark registration was filed for WICKED KITCHEN by ConAgra Foods RDM, Inc., Omaha, NE 68102.”

Although there’s no mention of Wicked Kitchen on ConAgra’s website, it is indeed one of the corporation’s newest brands, one that’s clearly geared at not only garnering some new market share, but of breaking, rather dramatically, with the brand image of its parent company. This is Big “Indie” Food.

And judging by the goods and services covered in the trademark paperwork, the food truck may be a means to an end:

frozen, prepared or packaged entrees, meals and side dishes consisting primarily of meat, fish, poultry or vegetables; soups; chili; frozen appetizers consisting primarily of meat, poultry, seafood, vegetables and/or fruit; processed mushrooms, chicken nuggets, onion rings, frozen vegetables, and mozzarella sticks; nut and seed-based snack bars; frozen, prepared or packaged meals consisting primarily of vegetables with or without vegetarian meat substitutes; soy-based and vegetable-based meat substitutes

So keep an eye out for Wicked Kitchen items in the freezer aisle. Asian-fusion taco TV dinners for all! 

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