- Chanel Grantham and Davey du Plessis wanted to radically change the food system.
- They wanted to do this by removing animals from the food supply chain.
- Tiger Brands and Secha Capital recently invested in their company, Herbivore Earthfoods.
- For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
When Chanel Grantham and Davey du Plessis decided to create a plant-based and vegan focused food company eight years ago, they were truly breaking new ground.
Back then, the impact of eating meat on the environment and even the concept of eating less meat was not really spoken of. “Meatless Mondays” was something that had yet to be invented and hardly anyone said out loud they were flexitarians.
But even in a less than supportive environment, where there were few options for vegans, they were committed, as Grantham puts it, “to radically change the food system.”
In essence, they wanted to remove animals from the food supply chain.
This meant they wanted to come up with food products that were not only better for the environment and healthier for consumers, but could also taste like the meat products they aimed to compete against.
These days, their company Herbivore Earthfoods sells about 24 products, ranging from “Dairy-Free Cheddar Slices” to “Mylk Chocolate” bars, to meat-like products, like pea-based “Vegan Herbiwurst” and “Vegan Honi.”
Though Herbivore Earthfoods is enjoying some success now, it was a tough start. Retailers did not really understand what they were trying to sell, so getting onto their shelves took a lot of hard work.
Nevertheless, they were so committed to making it work, they saved costs by choosing to not hire any staff and doing the work themselves. They even stayed in their factory for the first three years, to save on paying rent.
Eventually they caught a break when Woolworths agreed to source kale chips from them. Du Plessis admits that they might have “exaggerated” to the retailer how big they actually were and what their capacity was at the time.
Though the deal with Woolies was a good start, they admit that kale chips never really took off as a product.
Du Plessis says the public was confused by it, as they did not know what to make of these chips that looked like “potpourri”.
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They soon realised that if they wanted get traction with South Africans, their products should not be seen as vegan, but as products that taste great and are indistinguishable from their dairy and meat counterparts.
“We don’t want to just appeal to your flexitarians, vegetarian, or vegan markets. We want to appeal to a broader market, and make plant-based [foods] affordable and accessible,” says Grantham.
When it comes to making their food affordable, Grantham and Du Plessis say they have an advantage over meat-based products.
They argue that it takes up to 15 kilograms of plant protein in the form of animal feed to create 1 kilogram of animal protein. But by just getting plant-based products to taste like meat, they can be a lot more efficient than their meat focused counterparts.
“We are cutting out the middleman, which is the animal,” says Du Plessis.
How much more efficient are they? For now they are not saying. By being more efficient, they have an advantage over their competitors by making more use of the same amount or even fewer resources. Their efficiency increases even more if decide to ramp up production. Fortunately for them, a recently investment by Tiger Brands’ Venture Capital and Secha Capital will allow them to do just that.
They might have had a tough start, but Grantham and Du Plessis’ hard work is paying off. Even before the investment from Tiger Brands and Secha Capital they were growing at 40% a year.
They are also now in talks to possibly supply a national restaurant chain and plan to launch a chicken strips like product in a month.