Fry Family Food Co believes in changing the world from your kitchen

25 Nov 2021

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Fry's Family Fry's Family

When Wally Fry turned vegetarian and started to make meat alternatives in his own small home kitchen, little did he realize that he would be pioneering a movement in South Africa.

That was 30 years ago. Today, his desire to feed his family with nutritious plant-based meals has grown into a formidable business with 40 products sold in 30 different countries. Their product range includes items such as Sausage Rolls, Fish-Style Fillets, Chicken-Style Burgers, 2 Country Mushroom Pies Prawn Style Pieces.

Over the years, the family has played a leading role in education and advocacy, speaking in schools and universities on the merits of going plant-based. We caught up with Tammy Fry, Wally’s daughter, co-founder, and global brand lead, for more insight.

Was there a defining moment or an experience that led you to go vegan and start a vegan business?

After declaring at a young age that I would never eat animals, my dad (Wally Fry) decided to try to make meat alternatives that were high in protein and healthy. At this point, he’d also decided to follow in the footsteps of my mom and I — my mom is also a lifelong vegetarian — and stop eating meat. So while he was looking for a healthy alternative to feed his family, he was also looking for something that was as satisfying and simple to cook like meat. Fry’s sausages and burgers were born.

The response we got from friends and family was incredible, and surprising given how meat-centric South Africa was. That led to us rolling them out to a few supermarkets. The rest is plant-based history. My parents are the original plant-based pioneers in South Africa – this is something we are incredibly proud of.

Tammy Tammy Fry, co-founder and global brand lead

What is the mission behind Fry’s?

Essentially we started it as a way to feed our family healthier alternatives to meat in order to keep animals off our plates. We have since grown exponentially, but our mission has remained the same. We believe that changing the world from your kitchen is possible. Even the smallest of changes can make a massive impact. One meat-free meal a week with your family makes a difference. Changing the way we eat is one of the most powerful yet simple ways we can make a positive impact on our home, Mother Earth and the sentient beings we share Her with. Fry’s wants to make that as easy to do as possible.

A recent study indicated that 66 percent of South Africans are interested in vegan protein. How is your brand adding to this movement?

I like to think that in South Africa, we have been significant in helping the growth of plant-based consumer awareness. Fry’s is the market leader in the category in SA, and we are the original plant-based pioneers in the market. For a long time we were one of the only brands playing in this space. We initiated many of the plant-based advocacy movements like Meat Free Mondays; we spoke at schools and universities on food choices and climate change; and we spent much of our allocated marketing budget on education.

Which was the first product you introduced and what was the reaction by the public?

Our first product was our Traditional Sausage – a product we still sell in South Africa today. Sausages are a great versatile option for people wanting to eat less meat. They work in barbecues, in stews or curries and on their own as a roast meal with potatoes and two veggies. [It’s] the perfect starting point for a meat-eater wanting to explore plant-based. Since then, we have launched a number of new variants but our most recent sausage and the one we’re most proud of (available in South Africa) is the Big Fry Boerie. The Boerewors sausage is a quintessential South African food and is beloved across the country. It’s a staple for many. We believe we’ve created one of the best boerie alternatives on the market.

How do you come up with recipes and plant-based products?

Chicken Style Burger

The Chicken Style Burger was placed as one of the top in our burger awards. Would you say it’s your best-selling product?

Our Chicken-Style Burger and our Chicken-Style Nuggets are some of our top sellers, especially in the flexitarian space. The taste and texture of both is outstanding and often people can’t tell the difference. Both of these are also huge hits in most of the territories that Fry’s is available in. They are just good, basic staples loved by all ages and dietary preferences.

What's the most challenging and rewarding aspect of running your business?

I guess the most challenging initially was building a plant-based food company at a time when most people barely understood vegetarianism, never mind veganism or flexitarianism. We grew slowly and carefully, always driven by our values and mission. And then I think the most rewarding has been seeing the growth off the back of the fairly rapid rise of consumer awareness. Plant-based living went from niche to mainstream fairly quickly and we were very privileged to have been part of that journey.

The next stage of this was us partnering with LIVEKINDLY Collective which we did in March 2020. This has been an extremely exciting part of our journey as we now have a fully value-aligned “big brother/sister” supporting us in achieving our mission on a global scale.

Our biggest markets are South Africa, United Kingdom, Australia and recently the USA. We launched there in March 2021 and recently rolled out into many of the Target stores – one of their biggest retailers. We’re also available in multiple other countries in a more niche way.

All of these markets are quite different, so we’ve had to adapt to consumer demands in various ways. It’s been really interesting to see what the different motivators are in each country. We have to be cognizant of cultural differences, lifestyle differences, economic differences etc. But at the end of the day what always sells well is a good burger and a good sausage. Fry’s have a few of these in our repertoire.

Fry's Chicken Style Nuggets

How else does your business help in reducing environmental impact?

Reducing meat consumption across the globe by offering tasty, versatile meat alternatives to flexitarians is most definitely the biggest way we make an impact. We have also redone most of our packaging using the recyclable board and removed almost all of our plastic inners. We are aiming to be 98 percent recyclable by the end of the year.

What does the future look like for Fry’s?

It’s looking pretty good. This year was a big one for change and growth. And the next few years are going to reap the benefits of this. Our work with LIVEKINDLY Collective means more innovations, more retailers, more restaurants, more consumers across that many more markets. We can’t wait to witness the tipping point where plant-based becomes the norm.

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