Burgess has come to consider Match her own form of charity. She doesn't take a salary, and the venture has yet to turn a profit. "As soon as we make any money, it goes back into the company," she says. "I've invested a substantial part of my savings. At the end of your life, you want to have a picture of what it's going to be like. Are you a net producer or a net consumer?"

She had her epiphany about the need for a gourmet-quality meat substitute while she was still running Medical Video. She didn't sell the business until Match's development was well under way. "It's not rocket science," she likes to say. "It's not even food science. It's just common sense."

It was also, she adds, "a very intense intellectual process. When I first started thinking about it, I looked at the ingredients in Boca and Morningstar products. I wanted to find out more about how the ingredients were put together. I called the director of protein research at the University of Illinois. I went up there to spend a day. In the test kitchen, I saw a big bag of soy concentrate. The bag said, 'Central Soya,' and there was an 800 number. I called right then and there."

Allison Burgess, founder of Match Foods, at her farm in Dittmer, Missouri.
Allison Burgess, founder of Match Foods, at her farm in Dittmer, Missouri.

Location Info


Vin De Set Rooftop Bar and Bistro

2017 Chouteau Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63103

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: St. Louis - Lafayette Square


33 N. Sarah St.
St. Louis, MO 63108

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: St. Louis - Central West End

Lucas Park Grille

1234 Washington Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63103

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: St. Louis - Washington Avenue

Schlafly Bottleworks

7260 Southwest Ave
Maplewood, MO 63143

Category: Attractions and Amusement Parks

Region: Maplewood

Chris' Pancake & Dining

5980 Southwest Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63139

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: St. Louis - Dogtown

The Royale

3132 S. Kingshighway Blvd
St. Louis, MO 63139

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: St. Louis - South City

Duff's Restaurant

392 N. Euclid Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63108

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: St. Louis - Central West End

The Market at Busch's Grove-CLOSED

9160 Clayton Road
Ladue, MO 63124

Category: Grocery Stores

Region: Ladue

Helen Fitzgerald's

3650 S. Lindbergh Blvd.
Sunset Hills, MO 63127

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Crestwood/ Sunset Hills/ Sappington/ South Lindbergh

Whole Foods Market-Town and Country

1160 Town and Country Crossing Road
Town & Country, MO 63017

Category: Retail

Region: Town & Country


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Burgess traveled to Central Soya's headquarters in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and explained what she was planning to do. (The company has since merged with DuPont, moved to St. Louis and been renamed Solae.) The food scientists agreed to help her with her project.

"We spent a year and a half developing formulas," Burgess recalls. "We had 60 different samples of just the ground beef. They would mix them up, send them to me and wait for feedback.

"I studied meat," Burgess continues. "That's why I can't say I'm a vegetarian. I'd line up a Match burger and a hamburger side by side and take little nibbles of each. I'd handle them and cook them, and think through every detail of what a hamburger is. I analyzed every attribute of meat and tried to duplicate it. There was a lot of trial and error."

By late 2003 Burgess had found a formula that satisfied her — not just for beef, but for chicken and crab as well. (The pork and sausages would come later.) She returned to Fort Wayne to learn how to manufacture the product, then called AuraPro. Then she began to look for a place where she could set up production.

"So many places said we were too small," she remembers. "One day I was wandering around DiGregorio's market on the Hill and feeling so dejected and depressed, like this would never get off the ground. This woman came up to me and said, 'Can I help you?' For some reason, I told her about how I was at a loss. She said, 'You should talk to Frank DiGregorio.'"

DiGregorio, the older brother of the market's owner, gave Burgess space in his sausage plant on Shaw Avenue, taught her how to use the equipment and helped concoct the recipe for Match Italian sausage. As Burgess learned more about production, she continued to make adjustments.

"There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about changes," she says. "Once I got into the plant and learned how things worked, the realities of production determined what I could and couldn't do."

She talked her way into restaurant kitchens around St. Louis, starting with Helen Fitzgerald's Bar & Grill in south county. She sent samples to chefs, asked for their thoughts and incorporated their suggestions into the formula. She signed contracts with restaurant distributors, and in 2006, Match began to appear on local menus. "I didn't intend to go retail," she says. "But then Whole Foods called."

"We were very excited," recalls Matthew Mell, store team leader at the Whole Foods in Town & Country. It was Whole Foods' interest that forced Burgess to overhaul her entire product. For one thing, her ingredients had to meet the chain's stringent quality standards. For another, while her faux meat was popular with store employees, the grocer's management felt it needed a more exciting name than "AuraPro."

Burgess took a year to revamp and rebrand. She chose the name Match because she wanted her meat to be an accurate stand-in for the real thing. Whole Foods' managers helped her design the logo and marketing materials.

Match hit the grocer's freezers late in 2007, just in time to compete with tofurkey for the holidays. Sales have grown steadily since then, reports Kate Klotz, a spokeswoman for Whole Foods, with beef, chicken and Italian sausage leading the pack, and crab bringing up the rear. (Klotz cites "competitive reasons" for why the company will not release precise sales figures or say how Match's sales compare with other meat substitutes.)

The store in Brentwood remains the epicenter for Match sales, mostly because it has stocked the product the longest and because Holland regularly demonstrates Match cooking in its classroom. The second most profitable store for Match is the Whole Foods in Chicago's South Loop, which is staffed by a large population of vegetarians who promote the product with an evangelical zeal.

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