Food for the Sole: Vegan, Gluten-Free Backcountry Meals for Everyone

Startup StoriesAmy Hatch

Food for the Sole Vegan Gluten Free Backpacking Meals

Julie and Henry Mosier believe that you should be able to eat good food anywhere. That’s why the mother-and-son team created Food for the Sole, an Oregon startup that makes tasty, nourishing, vegan, mostly gluten-free, make-in-the-bag, backcountry meals.

Food for the Sole’s line of dehydrated adventure meals includes calorically dense cold soak salads, such as its Triple Peanut Slaw; meals that will fuel and sustain you for hours, such as its Coconut Rice and Cuban Black Beans; and meals that beautifully cap off a day, such as its Garlic Green Bean and Cashew Stir Fry, filled with belly-warming broth, and its Cinnamon Cherry Crisp for dessert.  

“I want our food to be amazing and satisfying,” Julie said. “I want people to go ‘oh my god.’”

Food for the Sole Vegan Gluten Free Backpacking Meals

Julie and Henry don’t themselves eat a vegan or gluten-free diet, and they didn’t necessarily set out to create meals with these diet restrictions in mind. Their aromatic meals went that direction simply because they wanted fresh-tasting vegetables while backpacking and during other outdoor adventures.   

But serving a population who typically struggles to find food, much less healthy food, has turned out to be one of their favorite parts of running Food for the Sole. Customers have told them that they’re giving them access to the outdoors — they're now able to go on the adventures that they used to only dream about because they now have food that meets their dietary constraints while still containing the necessary macro- and micro-nutrients.

“That’s powerful,” Henry said.

Food for the Sole Vegan Gluten Free Backpacking Meals

The spark for Food for the Sole came when Julie decided to go on a solo backpacking trip. As a kid she had hated backpacking, but now she wanted to see if she could do it, and do it by herself. She gathered and borrowed gear, and bought freeze-dried food at the local gear shop.

“Everything about the experience was awesome except the food. The food sucked,” Julie said.

Julie had grown up in a family that took food seriously. It was a way of life, a source of entertainment.

Shortly after that first backpacking trip, Julie borrowed her dad’s dehydrator and began experimenting with creating her own backcountry food.

Food for the Sole Vegan Gluten Free Backpacking Meals

Around that time Henry and has buddy had plans to hike the John Muir Trail, covering 20 to 25 miles per day and shooting landscape photography in the mornings and evenings. They asked Julie to do their resupplies, and she agreed. To save on weight and time they skipped bringing a stove, instead cold soaking their meals.

“Neither of us had expectations of eating well,” Henry said.

But to Julie the taste of their food mattered.

Food for the Sole Vegan Gluten Free Backpacking Meals

“I went crazy and spent all of my waking moments making food,” Julie said. “And then shoveling it into flat rate boxes and mailing it.”

It was on that trip that Henry first tasted Food for the Sole’s Triple Peanut Slaw. It had been a long day. Henry and his friend had their feet soaking in a cold stream.

“It was mind blowing,” Henry said. “It was so far and above anything I could have possibly expected. There were these fresh tasting vegetable flavors.”

Not long after Henry returned from the JMT, someone else asked Julie to do his food for an upcoming trip on the trail, and she again agreed. This second request led to Julie considering a small side business that did resupplies for friends. She worked through recipes and experimented with flavor profiles, taking notes as she went.

Food for the Sole Vegan Gluten Free Backpacking Meals

Then abruptly, Julie’s main source of income as an independent contractor ended. Julie had been watching the backpacking food market closely, and she had received sufficient feedback from people to understand that what she was doing was truly different. So she turned her full attention to ramping up Food for the Sole.

Food for the Sole launched it website just last year, in January 2018. At first it was just Julie, making her dehydrated meals out of a commercially outfitted community kitchen. Henry was a cheerleader on the sidelines, with his attention focused on ski patrolling and nursing school.

Food for the Sole Vegan Gluten Free Backpacking Meals

One day Henry mentioned to Julie that he could give her a hand with social media. A month or two later, he landed Food for the Sole a couple of local accounts. Suffice it to say that between March and May Henry gradually became more and more involved, letting his other interests and pursuits fall by the wayside, until one day Julie and Henry looked at each other and went, “Huh, I think we’re business partners now.”

Julie eventually moved her office to Henry’s house, after they tired of calling each other a dozen or more times a day.

Food for the Sole Vegan Gluten Free Backpacking Meals

There’s definitely been a learning curve as they’ve divvied up responsibilities, figured out systems to keep themselves organized and got the hang of effectively communicating.

“Communicating as business partners is definitely a different thing than communicating as mother and son,” Julie said.

But it’s also been what keeps them going when overwhelm hits because starting a business can sometimes mean having to learn too much all at the same time and juggle a mountain of to dos that are simply too many for two people to get done.

“To be frank, the best thing, the very best thing, is doing this with Henry,” Julie said.  


Fun additional note: In the next month or so, Food for the Sole will release two breakfasts. This author’s mouth watered as Julie and Henry described the flavors and ingredients that will be packed into the 420-calorie, 12-grams-of-protein meals. Needless to say, stay tuned!

 

Food for the Sole Vegan Gluten Free Backpacking Meals
Food for the Sole Meals

 

 

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