Principles before profit drives vegetarian meat alternatives brand

From humble beginnings, making vegetarian sausages and burger patties in their family kitchen, The Fry Family Food Co.’s range of vegetarian meat alternatives has garnered international success whilst sticking to the values on which it was established 26 years ago.

The founder of Fry’s, Wally Fry says, ‘In 1991, my wife Debbie and I – both committed vegetarians by then – began experimenting in our kitchen with the aim of finding and creating a variety of healthy, high-protein meat alternatives to support our family’s healthy, active lifestyle.

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‘While I was not a born vegetarian, both my wife and daughter were and I soon began questioning my own need for meat. It was only later, after witnessing the ethical issues surrounding meat production first hand, that I took the decision to make a difference.’

Giving up what was once a staple part of his diet, Wally needed something to take the place of meat. ‘I was very over broccoli, feta and spinach. Truthfully, most chefs think that’s what vegetarians eat, but we need protein just like anybody else. That’s why I started Fry’s,’ he says.

About two years later, having spent days upon days in their Durban home trying, testing and trying again, Wally and Debbie produced their first four products using a small burner, a pot and a glass thermometer. ‘To make our sausages, I used a Stanley Knife to cut the cellulose casings and a cappuccino machine delivering steam.

‘We shared these with our friends and family and ended up receiving a call from the chairman of the Vegetarian Society of South Africa who had heard about our products and, after tasting them for himself, loved them too. With his support and marketing experience, I learnt what I needed to do to see a supermarket buyer and get our products onto the shelves,’ Wally explains.

With a near immediate order, Wally had to scale up production, secure factory space and buy equipment.

The Frys also began to employ more staff, a number of whom are still with the company today, a company which produces thousands of tons of vegetarian products every year and employs over 250 people.

Wally says, ‘From producing 50kg of our initial products a day, we now make around 14,000kg in one shift and supply a constantly growing list of products to over 25 countries.’

The phenomenal success of Fry’s has been driven partly by an ethos of focusing on continuous improvement and innovation; evidence of this is clear from the awards that Fry’s continue to win around the world; most recently the Fry’s Soy and Flaxseed Schnitzel won the Taste Innovation Award at the world’s biggest food show, Anuga FoodTec Trade Show 2017.  This came a week after Fry’s was awarded “BEST VEGAN MEAT” at Vegfest UK Awards 2017; Europe’s largest vegan festival.

Wally attributes the rest of their success to the fact the business is driven by a desire to make a difference in the world, and not simply to make a profit. ‘Principles before profits. That has been our mantra from day one. We still measure our success by the amount of animal lives saved should someone choose Fry’s over a meat product,’ he concludes.

View a video of Wally Fry’s personal and business journey here.