From 65-Cent Veggie Dogs to Its 23,000 Square-Foot Food Hall, Ikea Is Betting on a Plant-Based Future

After 65 years in business, Ikea is no longer just a place for affordable furniture. Sure, you can still get a Billy bookcase and stylish Swedish textiles, but the food at Ikea has become a big draw, too. More than half a billion people eat at Ikea’s bistros regularly, making it an influential global food business.

With all eyes on Ikea, the company is making sustainability strides toward becoming a resource-positive company by 2030. How? By continuing to invest in plant-based food innovation, including a new vegan hot dog. Its sister company, Ingka Centres, is also opening a food hall focused on plant-forward fare in San Francisco. 

Ikea makes the plant dog the top dog

Ikea’s journey into plant-based cuisine began notably in 2015 with the launch of its vegan Swedish meatballs, a move aimed at reducing the carbon footprint associated with traditional meat production. 

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Following the success of the vegan meatballs, Ikea expanded its plant-based menu with the introduction of the Veggie Dog in 2018 as a meatless option of its popular hot dogs, of which Ikea sells approximately 100 million servings every year. 

The popularity of the Veggie Dog demonstrated the potential for plant-based alternatives to become staples at Ikea, satisfying consumer preferences without compromising on taste or quality.

“Through our food business, we can contribute to [a better everyday life] by offering more plant-based alternatives with a lower climate impact compared to animal-based options,” Helene von Reis, Food Manager at Ikea of Sweden, said in a statement. 

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Ikea didn’t stop at just one meatless hot dog. Last summer, the company introduced a second vegan hot dog, the Plant Dog, at its European stores. This vegan hot dog—made from rice protein, onion, apple, and seasoned to perfection—was made to directly compete with its meat dogs, complete with a snappy casing. 

This week, Ikea is bringing the Plant Dog to its United States locations for a low price of 70¢. Ikea is also dropping the price of its Veggie Dog to 65¢ each to outcompete its meat dog in price (which costs 75¢). 

“We’re excited to launch the Plant Dog in the US,” Paul Fite, Country Food Manager, Ikea US, said in a statement. “We know that our hot dogs are beloved by many and we’re proud to expand our plant-based foods for customers.” 

“Our ambition is to make healthier and more sustainable eating easy, desirable, and affordable, without compromising on taste,” Fite said. 

In a fun move, Ikea US stores will host a Plant Dog Baby Shower-themed event on April 11 allowing customers to sample the new offering and engage with the brand in a fun and interactive way. 

And while the affordable veggie dogs are indeed a thing to celebrate, there’s even more exciting plant-based news at Ikea’s sister company Ingka Centres.

Saluhall builds a plant-based paradise

Just like many cities around the world, San Francisco has experienced a sharp downturn in business in its downtown region. From the pandemic to Amazon to politics, speculation has been high about the root of the problem. However, Ikea bet on downtown for its first San Francisco store, which opened last year to much fanfare. 

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What is Ingka Centres betting on? Plant-based food made by exceptional regional vendors.

Called Saluhall, the new 23,000-square-foot food hall and community space will soon open its doors adjacent to the new Ikea, bringing a Nordic food and lounge concept to the Bay Area—and, eventually, other key cities, including in India and China. 

“Salhall is a first-of-its-kind space, joining the community through many pathways,” Elise von Hellion, Managing Director of Saluhall, said in a statement. “We want people to feel relaxed, welcome, and at home.”

“We aim to give people a multitude of reasons to gather and share new experiences,” von Hellion said. “Saluhall is a meeting place as much as an eating place. We want to provide an open, curious, and inviting energy.”

When fully operational, Saluhall will seat 450 and feature 11 different concepts in one including five local, independent traders inspired by culinary traditions from around the world; the Lagom beer bar; Punsch cocktail bar; Burgare burger bar; Snöberg soft-serve counter; in-house programs; a bakery called “Smörgåsland”; and culinary education center Cooking Skola. 

The last two concepts were developed for Ingka Centres by Claus Meyer & Ko, owned by world-renowned restaurateur Claus Meyer. 

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“Saluhall is designed for all to engage with fabulous culinary experiences,” von Hellion said. “More simply put, Saluhall offers something for everyone. Being accessible is very important to us. We call it Saluhall for all.”

The concept has also been working with local brewery, Fort Point, to develop a proprietary brew called “Saluhall,” which is a Nordic-style lager with a signature bite.

The vegan options at Saluhall

While Saluhall was initially announced as an 80-percent plant-based food hall, the concept has evolved to describe itself as “plant-forward.” Despite this change, Saluhall will embrace plant-based innovators in the cities it operates, starting with San Francisco. It will also task participating vendors to develop plant-based dishes for Saluhall. 

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“We’re open-minded, not autocratic here. It’s got to taste great first and foremost,” Ian Dodds, co-founder of KERB and Seven Dials Market (the collaborating entity with Ingka Centres for Saluhall), said in a statement. “So a mix of brilliant established plant-based cooks, local vendors who are excited to experiment with new plant-based offerings and plant-forward menus focused on seasonal, local sourcing.” 

“We are getting a lot of excitement from vendors—it’s an opportunity to expand horizons, try out new concepts, dishes, ingredients, and ideas,” Dodds said. 

The debut vendor team at Saluhall features five exciting and diverse culinary experiences. Among them will be two completely vegan concepts:

1Taqueria La Venganza 

Raul Medina, the mastermind behind Taqueria La Venganza—which has operated in the Bay Area in various iterations—challenges conventional notions of both Mexican and vegan cuisine. 

“With Taqueria La Venganza, my goal is satisfying the true meat lovers—people who love offal, organ meats, skin, chicharron,” Medina said in a statement. “This is a new era of vegan muscle, vegan protein.”  

With a focus on texture and flavor, Medina recreates traditional Mexican dishes using innovative plant-based meats, with signature tacos filled with asada (made from marinated seitan skirt steak) and carnitas (where smokey mushrooms serve as pork confit).  

Medina makes his beans with vegan lard, not simply oil, to deliver a flavorful and authentic experience. 

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With his work at Saluhall, Medina hopes to represent the people of California—most of whom are people of color—while at the same time challenging himself to create delicious fare that even meat-eaters can enjoy. 

“Saluhall as a concept is the opposite of niche, and I love that,” Medina said. “The exposure is cool—the opportunity to go beyond my own audiences and my own marketing in being next to Ikea and partnering with Ingka Centres is great.” 

2Casa Borinqueña 

Chef Lulu Marquez-Nau of Casa Borinqueña brings the vibrant flavors of Puerto Rican cuisine to Saluhall. After growing up in New York, chef Marquez-Nau brought the concept to the Bay Area in 2018 in the form of various pop-ups. In 2020, the chef went vegan and so did Casa Borinqueña.

On the menu at Casa Borinqueña will be fried “chicken” pinchos and arroz con gandules with seasoned vegan chicken, maduros, and salad. 

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Her partnership with Saluhall will allow chef Marquez-Nau to bring her family recipes to the forefront, create a little stability for the small business, and help her network with others in the space. 

“I am most excited about being able to be a part of something bigger like Saluhall,” Marquez-Nau said in a statement. “With businesses finding success all around the world in Saluhall it is an amazing chance to work with different businesses, meet others in the vegan food industry, and make bonds.”

3Kayma 

An Algerian eatery owned by husband-and-wife team Mounir and Wafa Bahloul, Kayma’s inspiration comes from the couple’s nomadic roots and the food reflects the flavorful spices, herbs, and techniques passed down through their North African heritage. While Kayma started as a food truck in the Mission neighborhood, its Saluhall iteration will focus more on plant-based fare. 

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“It is still very hard to find the food we grow up having,” Wafa Bahloul said in a statement. “We started thinking out of the box and doing experiments on the different cuisines of the world we were having or on our Algerian dishes. ”

“We were surprised how flavorful and unique those plant-based meals are,” she said. “Now, with Saluhall we have a chance to share all these flavors.”

At Kayma, guests can try lion’s mane mushroom steak marinated in beet juice for color and coated in ras el hanout alongside couscous and vegetables with fire-roasted bell pepper hmiss—a signature dish in Algeria. 

4Momo Noodle

At Momo Noodle, co-founder June Guo is excited to showcase the plant ingredients that make Sichuan cuisine shine. The star dish will be the Hot & Sour Rice Noodle with House Tofu, which is slow-cooked in Douban (a spicy bean paste) and housemade Yuxiang sauce to infuse the bean curd with intense flavor. 

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“Each bite is a testament to how plant-based ingredients can be both deeply flavorful and satisfying,” Guo said in a statement. 

Momo Noodle, which operates as one of the top food trucks in San Francisco, will also offer a Spicy Noodle with Spicy Konjac Tofu, another bold plant-based dish that delivers on flavor and texture. 

5Curry Up Now

A local chain with national locations, Curry Up Now was founded by husband-and-wife team Akash and Rana Kapoor in 2009 and seeks to redefine Indian street food with a modern twist and a plant-forward approach. 

“Although our number one seller is our chicken tikka masala burrito, we have always been proud to provide dozens of vegetarian and vegan options to our guests,” Akash Kapoor said in a statement.

The founders’ Punjabi heritage informs the vegan-friendly menu, which at Saluhall will feature Hella’ Vegan Rice Bowl (which features samosas, chutneys with rice, chana garbanzo masala, pico de gallo, & a side of fryums—a potato snack); and its famous Deconstructed Samosa (an inside-out samosa loaded with chana masala, pico, chutneys, mini samosas, and a choice of protein).

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Akash Kaoopr is excited to bring his Indian fare to Saluhall and about its potential as a whole to revitalize downtown San Francisco as a culinary destination. 

“We have faith that San Francisco will once again rise out of this challenging moment in our city’s history and step into a more resilient future,” Akash Kapoor said. “But it’s going to take forward-thinking individuals and companies to make this happen.” 

“And Saluhall is but one of the many new exciting ventures leading this vanguard against the doom loop,” he said. 

Can Saluhall break San Francisco’s “doom loop?”

Since 2020, many storefronts have shuttered in downtown San Francisco, with nearly half of the 97 storefronts inside the former Westfield-owned mall now closed. 

But San Francisco is not unique in its retail woes as legacy chains such as CVS, Macy’s, Rite Aid, and Target, to name a few, continue to shutter across California and the rest of the country due to financial hardships. 

As Saluhall prepares to open, Dodds hopes that it infuses downtown San Francisco with creativity and excitement, moving the area beyond the supposed “doom loop” portrayed in national media. 

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“We love San Francisco, strongly believing that it’s a place that leads in ideas, culture, creativity, and food, and still the birthplace of so many brilliant projects that have powerful influence around the world,” Dodds said, noting that similar projects have found success in London.  

“We are eager to contribute to the revitalization of mid-Market and be part of building some positivity around the area,” Dodds said. “We want to be less about the doom loop and more about the cinnamon swirl.”

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