Manufacturer of plant-based meat substitutes Fry’s Family Food is headquartered in South Africa and was producing vegan food long before most people even knew what vegan food was. As the proud global sponsor of Veganuary and as part of EWP’s commitment to the campaign this month, we interviewed Tammy Fry, the Marketing Director of Australia and New Zealand at Fry’s Family Foods, to understand the origin story of this pioneering vegan meat alternatives brand and to extract some plant-based advice and wisdom for people transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle for Veganuary and beyond.
EWP: Tell us about the Fry’s story. What inspired the launch of the business and what have been some of the biggest accomplishments so far?
Tammy Fry: The Fry Family Food Co. had its very humble beginnings in my family kitchen, where my parents, Debbie and Wally Fry, egged on by my dogged determination against animals as food, began creating protein alternatives while looking for variety in our active family’s plant-based diets. Soon their small kitchen innovations grew and in 1991, The Fry Family Food Co. was born. We are now a leader in the plant-based food industry, with over 40 different products on supermarket shelves in 30 countries around the world. For me the biggest accomplishment is that we’ve achieved this while still remaining true to our core family values.
Some specific recent achievements that we are particularly proud of:
- In March 2020 Fry’s joined the LIVEKINDLY Collective which is a new global company that is on track to become one of the biggest plant-based food companies in the world. We are one of their founder-led brands, and sit alongside other brands like Oumph!, LikeMeat and LIVEKINDLY media. LIVEKINDLY Collective has a mission to make plant-based eating the new normal and we are totally on board with that.
- At the end of last year we were voted the Best Vegan Meat in the UK by the VegFestUK Awards 2020. We are very proud of this award because it was public voted at a time when the market is highly competitive with loads of really good plant-based meat products available.
EWP: Have you noticed an increase in vegan food sales? What was the industry/market like when you launched compared with today?
TF: There has been a massive shift in consciousness worldwide. The entire supermarket industry has watched as plant-based sales have grown at a far greater pace than some of the other food categories. We can see in own sales figures and in the growth of our company – the industry is changing at a rapid pace. We’ve had double digit growth year on year and with our partnership with the LIVEKINDLY Collective and our launch into the US market – and we’re likely to continue the trajectory.
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EWP: What was the industry and market like when you launched compared with today?
TF: We’ve been in the space for 30 years and can still remember a time when veganism was almost an unknown concept, especially in South Africa. There was a definite hesitancy about plant-based meat alternatives in the beginning, whereas now there is more of an openness and excitement about plant-based meats. We never started our company to jump onto the proverbial “plant-based-bandwagon”, because I can assure you in the 80s and 90s there wasn’t one. We were driven by the purpose to make a difference in the world by providing people with an alternative to meat to help make their transition to plant-based easier. We are still driven by that mission today.
EWP: Why do you think there is now a greater demand for plant-based food?
TF: It is an incredibly exciting time that has come about as people are becoming more and more educated on the state of our struggling planet, our only home, and are pushing for a healthier future for all who live on it. Teenagers and young millennials are extraordinary. They are informed, brave and focused and will be the generation to institute real change for the sake of the planet, the animals and vulnerable people. The youth are embracing the idea of less meat and they are feeling determined and empowered in their choices. It’s a sustainable, radical and permanent shift in consciousness.
EWP: What are your top three tips for people looking to successfully complete Veganuary?
TF: 1. Keep it simple and there’s no such thing as perfect – it’s a personal journey so enjoy the process and celebrate every bite.
2. Reach out! There’s an incredible community of like-minded, conscious driven people with loads of information and a wealth of experience to share. Take the Veganuary pledge for easy to follow meal plans and download our plant-based 101 guide that takes the guesswork out of all of it.
3. Look at it as an investment in your health, money spent on good, healthy food now will go a long way to saving you pennies in health care later.
EWP: What are some of favourite books and films for people looking to be educated on meat-free eating?
I am also about to launch a book called Made with Love and Plants which is essentially a cookbook, but which also offers loads of tips and tricks that I have learnt over the years navigating this path. It will be available on Amazon from March 2021.
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Cover image of Tammy Fry. All images supplied