After raising $1.5 million in venture capital funding, Australia’s newest start-up plant-based meat company Fable Food Co. released its first product range, a plant-based pulled pork and beef brisket made predominantly with shiitake mushrooms.
The company followed up its initial success, releasing its new ‘Plant Based Slow Braised Beef’ across 600 Woolworths locations in Australia in time for World Meat Free Week.
As Fable continues its path to gaining a strong foothold in the Australian faux meat market, an industry projected to be valued at $6 billion by 2030, we connected with its co-founder Michael Fox, a meat-loving Queenslander who turned vegetarian over four years ago who shared his journey to giving up eating animal meat, what it took to develop the Fable plant-based meat product range and his advice for those looking to eat a more plant-based diet.
EWP: What propelled you to turn vegetarian? How long have you been vegetarian?
Michael Fox: I’ve been vegetarian for four and half years. I’d read a little about the health, environmental and ethical implications of eating meat and had been reducing my meat consumption in the prior decade. Then I read Jonathan Safran Foer’s book, Eating Animals. It’s the best laid out case for anything I’ve ever read and I immediately stopped eating meat. I’m now most of the way towards eliminating my dairy and egg consumption as well.
EWP: How long did it take to develop the product range for Fable and what did the process entail?
MF: In 2018 I started to spend time on market research to find out if other people wanted what I did in plant-based meats. I’m a pretty healthy eater, I shop at my local farmers’ markets, do a lot of my own cooking, bake my own sourdough and brew my own kombucha. I do my best to eat and feed my 3.5 and 1.5-year-olds a minimally processed, whole food, plant-based diet. I still sometimes crave the taste and texture of meat, so I wanted a meat alternative that fits with that diet – minimally processed and whole food based.
So I spent time in my local supermarkets watching how customers shopped for meat alternatives, what they bought, what they didn’t and I’d ask them questions about it. Turns out a lot of other people were looking for products like I was! So I started exploring how this could be done. I got quite excited about the idea of using mushrooms as a base ingredient for a meat alternative. They’re incredibly healthy and have a lot of the natural umami flavours the same as meat.
Through that exploration, I met my co-founders Jim Fuller and Chris McLoghlin. Jim’s a chef and mycologist (mushrooms scientist) and Chris is the co-founder of Australia’s largest organic mushroom farm and was Organic Farmer of the Year 2018 in Australia. Turns out they had started to work on the same thing – creating delicious meat alternatives from mushrooms. We got on really well, decided to join forces and by the end of 2019 we were ready to launch!
EWP: What are your top tips for people who are keen to cut down meat intake or transition to a plant-based lifestyle?
MF: I didn’t find it easy switching to being vegetarian and cutting back on my dairy and egg consumption. The first thing I started to do was find alternatives to animal products for my favourite recipes. My two favourite dishes are tacos and curries. So I sought out the best meat alternatives I could find to use in place of meat and do a direct swap in my existing recipes.
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I then started to explore new recipes and while I still eat a lot of curries I’ve added dahl to my repertoire as well as more salads and mixed in new recipes I’d never really explored before. Ten years ago I would have eaten meat two out of three meals every day. Today I eat meat alternatives 3-4 meals per week and eat a lot more meals that aren’t necessarily trying to be meat like.
EWP: Fable launched in December 2019. What are the business achievements and milestones so far?
MF: We were thrilled to launch Fable in partnership with Heston Blumenthal at Dinner by Heston in Melbourne. Heston’s an amazing chef and has incredible insights around food and how people connect with food, so it’s been an amazing experience for us to get to know him as he’s used our products in his restaurants. From there, our next big project was scaling our manufacturing so we could start to serve more restaurants and now launch in retail has been a very rewarding experience for us.
EWP: Besides Woolworths supermarkets, where else can shoppers find Fable?
MF: Conveniently we have a “where to find Fable” page on our website. We’re available in Heston Blumenthal’s UK restaurants, Harris Farm, Marley Spoon, Ribs & Burgers, Burger Urge then lots of great independent restaurants too.
EWP: What are the long-term goals for the company and how is the company tracking to meet them?
MF: We want to help make it easier for people to reduce their meat consumption. We believe the path to achieving that is to produce meat alternatives that are equal to or even improve upon the taste and texture of animal meat, doing it at an affordable price, having it available in all the places people purchase meat (supermarkets, restaurants and cafes etc.) and using a whole food, minimally processed base ingredient like shiitake mushrooms to do it. We’ve started by replicating slow cooked meats like braised beef and pulled pork. Ultimately we want to do that across all types of meat, so we’re only at the beginning of our journey and mission.
To browse Fable’s library of simple, divine recipes, click here.
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All images by Natalie Nguyen.