Barbie and Megan Luna were no strangers to Ohio food culture when they started creating their fresh veggie burgers three years ago. The two gourmands were committed to vegan living (no animal products) when they first created the spelt berry- and black bean-based burgers as part of a meal exchange with friends. These friends would become the first of many satisfied consumers of the flavorful vegan patties, demanding more of what they dubbed “Luna Burgers”.
While many national brands sell veggie burgers, Luna Burger is unique in that they are always vegan, and are made with emphasis on the freshest ingredients from local farms. “We want to create relationships with farmers and customers and we want to use the best ingredients and participate in our local food culture”, Barbie said.
When the Lunas saw that their friends loved their burgers, they began perfecting their three signature varieties: the Classic, with earthy beets and aromatic rosemary; the Garden Thyme, with hints of apple, thyme, and ginger; and the bold and hearty Farmhouse Chili. In May 2009, Luna Burger debuted at local farmers’ markets. It became clear that the growing move toward sustainably-produced and locally-sourced foods in Ohio could mean great success for Luna Burger, but building a food-based business from scratch is not without challenges. “We realized this was going to be a huge undertaking,” said Barbie.
The Lunas became acquainted with Bob Leighty of the Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI), who recommended ECDI’s Microenterprise Loan Program. The program helps new or existing businesses succeed by providing business training, technical assistance as well as microloans.
“The classes were helpful and a good way to meet other small business folks”, Barbie said of the Microenterprise Loan Program. A microloan from ECDI made it possible for Luna Burger to move into a production space and purchase the equipment needed to meet ambitious production goals and increase access in the community. “This space and our equipment are due in large part to our ECDI loan,” said Barbie.
Luna Burgers are now available at six local farmers’ markets, retail locations such as Weiland’s Gourmet Market and Whole Foods, as well as eateries like Short North Tavern and Rad Dog! hot dog cart. Summer 2010 will bring two new Luna varieties to eager central Ohio foodies – a peanut cilantro burger with jalapeño, and a gluten-free barbecue burger. The Lunas’ goal is for 100% of ingredients to come from the United States, with 90% of those ingredients originating in the Ohio and greater Columbus area.
Luna Burger has a promising future in the community, with plans to hire a production staff, increase distribution, and an interest in working with schools and hospitals to increase access to healthful and tasty foods, crafted mindfully from home-grown Ohio ingredients.