How Wally Fry grew a plant-based food empire in South Africa

ByLois C

Apr 8, 2022 , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wally Fry

Assigning Wally Fry the title of pioneer of plant-dependent food items in South Africa is properly justified. The epitome of an early marketplace entrant, the Fry Family Food items Co. was proven in 1991 at a time when vegetarianism was largely considered a fad in South Africa, and vendors experienced little to no faith in the demand from customers for meat substitute items. How the former KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) farm boy and livestock trader crafted up the business enterprise may well not have been commercially standard, but it definitely proved thriving.

Wally Fry is emphatic that the establishment of the Fry Household Food items Co. in 1991 was an aspiration and price-pushed final decision rather than a income-pushed one. In the a few a long time considering that, the organization has led the advancement of plant-dependent and meat-free of charge foods products in South Africa, building vegan and vegetarian choices simply accessible to people hunting for choice protein resources.

Talking to How we produced it in Africa from Australia, wherever he now life, Wally credits his spouse Debbie with introducing him to a meat-free diet although he, ironically, was in the goat and cattle trade. “I fulfilled my spouse although I was a livestock agent and she was presently a vegetarian. I didn’t even know what a vegetarian was at the time,” he claims.

Soon after the two married, Wally labored in his father-in-law’s development organization and then recognized his possess small building corporation. It was while in the building business that he grew to become included in the enhancement of a 1,000-sow piggery in KZN. Viewing the web site as soon as in operation, he describes his shock at the problems in which the bred-for-meat animals were being held.

His remaining push toward a meat-cost-free philosophy arrived when his youthful daughter also became a vegetarian and began asking concerns about the causes animals ended up reared and killed for food items. “She questioned queries I did not have the answers to. I began to do some study and was flabbergasted at the extent of biodiversity destruction as a direct consequence of livestock farming. It was an epiphany for me. Getting substitute meals resources to meat turned a passion, a want, a calling,” he clarifies.

Realising he would “not last very long on a diet regime of rice and lentils”, Wally began to experiment with ingredients in the loved ones kitchen area, understanding how to procedure raw elements these kinds of as soya and make emulsions from vegetable-based fat.

“The type of food stuff progress I was undertaking at the time was unfamiliar in the world. This was difficult, as there was no-one I could go to for assistance and I had to figure things out myself,” he describes.

Organic and natural area advancement

Manufacturing do-it-yourself meat-totally free alternatives for household and friends, Wally reveals he had no need to commercialise the principle until finally he was approached by a advertising expert in 1992 who recognised the chance, drew up a free of charge organization system for the Fry Relatives Food items Co. and introduced him to players in production and packaging. “He taught me so a lot of points about the retail business and I am eternally grateful for his intervention.”

Wally soon approached the food customer of a large national retailer, secured a conference and provided a tasting of his meat-totally free sausage, hotdog, polony and burger, making ready the food on a two-burner camping stove in the small kitchen area of the grocery store chain head office environment. “He appreciated the merchandise and said he would give us a listing in 33 outlets nationally, but he had no thought of our minimal production ability, and we hadn’t even finalised packaging but.

The company's meat-free burger product.

The company’s meat-free of charge burger product.

“To fill the order, I acquired next-hand food stuff producing equipment at an auction in Durban, set up it in a tiny manufacturing facility place I owned, utilized a just lately retrenched butcher who knew how to work the processors, and slowly began output.”

The unique crew – comprising himself, his one manufacturing facility personnel, and his wife, Debbie – was shortly correctly managing manufacturing.

Wally points out that the company was absolutely self-funded and that, after he left the building trade, the household lived off rental profits from many tiny factories he owned. “No borrowed funding was ever applied. All the earnings ended up reinvested with the very simple mantra ‘if I can not shell out funds for it, then I don’t need to have it’,” he notes.

In 18 months of its initially listing, Fry Loved ones Food Co. solutions had appointed distribution agents throughout the state and Wally had obtained listings in every national branch of Select n Pay back, adopted by Checkers, Makro, Spar and numerous impartial retailers.

As shopper desire in meat-no cost solutions grew together with demand, Wally continued to build new meat-totally free and plant-dependent items, branching into plant-based rooster choices.

In 1992, the authentic factory was generating all-around 300kg of item a working day and, in 2005, the company opened its initial 5,000m2 tailor made-constructed manufacturing unit in Durban. “Because no-a person experienced ever produced foodstuff like this right before, we experienced to style and design our very own equipment. We finished up with a factory that developed up to 14 tonnes in a 24-hour interval,” he states.

Incidental global enlargement

Wally describes the business’ growth into the global current market as mostly serendipitous. Upon relocating to Australia in 1998, the company’s critical accountant recognised the absence of plant-dependent items and meat substitutes on the marketplace and convinced Wally to ship an container of merchandise to Australia. Soon after a gradual start out, Fry’s products and solutions were before long detailed in more than 2,000 stores throughout Australia. “It was an outstanding expansion off a tiny base,” Wally notes.

The following calendar year, the enterprise started out exporting into the British isles and Belgium, signalling its entrance into the European industry. “The way we expanded into international marketplaces was absolutely unplanned and with no a described strategy. Somebody would try our products and solutions in one particular state and call us to say they required to characterize us in yet another marketplace. Just after we checked their credentials, they would pay upfront for stock, which we would then ship, and this resulted in a amazing world wide network of brokers. We honestly had no approach all around reaching a specific quantity of product sales, we have been just content with what ever we acquired.”

Fry's products in a supermarket.

Fry’s items in a supermarket.

Fry characteristics the results of the business enterprise to the truth that the individuals they ended up promoting to knew the organization was operate and operated by a vegan and vegetarian family members with a ethical result in, which offered the brand authenticity.

Nowadays, Fry Family members Food items Co. goods are outlined in 8,000 stores across 27 nations around the world.

Offering a stake in the corporation

In 2020 Wally marketed a vast majority stake in the Fry Family Foodstuff Co. to the LiveKindly Collective. This was just after the New York-based mostly LiveKindly Collective raised US$200 million in money from quite a few international traders, such as its founders, entrepreneurs and family workplaces, to receive models that would finally build one of the world’s biggest plant-based mostly food companies.

Upon acquisition in 2020, the Fry Loved ones Food items Co. was manufacturing some 5,000 tonnes of solution per annum. “I bought the company in 2020 to a massive New York-primarily based organization without the need of ever owning borrowed a cent,” claims Wally.

Even with the acquisition, the Fry Family Meals Co. stays a loved ones affair. Wally’s daughters Tammy and Hayley head up advertising and marketing, and investigate and enhancement, respectively, and son Shaun functions as normal handling director in the Australia and New Zealand location. Wally stays a advisor and advisor to the business on an advertisement hoc foundation.

With its most important creation facility nonetheless located in Durban, Fry’s Family members Foods Co. – beneath the LiveKindly umbrella – has since proven a next manufacturing plant in Europe.

While significantly of the Durban-centered producing and processing machinery has been scaled, upgraded or digitalised, numerous of Fry’s first production machines keep on being in procedure these days. “The sausage packaging equipment I built and developed in 1995, for instance, is however packaging 5 tonnes a working day,” he states.

Leveraging off the much larger footprint and community provided under the LiveKindly Collective, the Fry Household Foods Co. programs more growth into intercontinental markets, as very well as the progress of further meat-free and plant-centered solutions.

“Plant-centered living is a quick-expanding trend in the planet, and to fulfill the demand, superior and much better alternatives to standard meat, fish and dairy merchandise are remaining produced at a head-bending speed,” suggests Wally.

The Fry Family Food Co. factory in Durban, South Africa.

The Fry Spouse and children Food items Co. factory in Durban, South Africa.

The Fry’s presenting

Describing a holistic strategy based on the belief that the overall health of animals, the earth and individuals are intrinsically connected, the enterprise is meticulous about the sourcing of raw resources and producing for its now in excess of 60-potent solution range. It continues to supply non-genetically modified proteins from moral sources that are “rigorously tested” and licensed cost-free from pesticides to develop quality merchandise that are preservative-totally free and 100% vegan.

Sources of protein consist of soya, wheat, rice, quinoa, pea and chia seeds, even though fats are derived from sunflower oil, flaxseed oil and coconut oil. Carbs in the type of potato, maize starch and wheat flour are applied in the production process. Flavourings are derived from a wide range of vegetation.

Meat-free market place increase

The latest details suggests international buyers are increasingly hunting to meat-totally free and plant-primarily based meals alternate options as they adopt a escalating desire for foods perceived to be more healthy and extra sustainable. A 2021 report by Bloomberg Intelligence predicts the plant-based mostly meals market place will develop from $29.4 billion in 2020 to in excess of $162 billion by 2030, or 7.7% of the envisioned $2.1 trillion global protein market.

It states that even though about 5% of the world wide inhabitants discover as vegan, flexitarians – who take in a mostly vegetarian eating plan but occasionally take in meat or fish – constitute all around a third of the US populace.

“We be expecting the profits progress for plant-primarily based meat and dairy alternate options will outpace common solutions, supported by amplified production capability, lower retail selling prices, broader distribution gains and consumer acceptance,” in accordance to the report.

In the Uk, market place intelligence agency Mintel documented in 2019 that the quantity of Britons consuming meat-totally free choices experienced increased from 50% in 2017 to 65% in 2019. “Meanwhile, the income of meat-totally free meals have developed an impressive 40%, from £582 million in 2014 to an believed £816 million in 2019. These kinds of is the acceptance of meat-no cost foodstuff that revenue in the Uk are expected to be in extra of £1.1 billion by 2024,” it uncovered.

By Lois C