“Today, it is a scientifically proven fact that excessive meat and dairy consumption is one of the main causes of coronary heart disease and strokes. So it’s not surprising that the meat-reducing sector is a rapidly growing market,” explains vegan enthusiast Lisa Drummy, who co-founded Beanies with her father Patrick.
The company imports 13 types of meat-replacement products, including vegan burgers and sausages, veggie mince, schnitzel, polony and cottage pie from South African company Fry’s.
“We sold 3,732 cases of Fry’s meat products last year – each case contains sixty pieces of meat. In April last year, we also started importing vegan burgers from a Belgium-based company called Alicer’s Veggies to cater for the growing demand and we’d sold 216 cases by the year’s end," says Drummy
"People have this perception that vegan products don’t taste of anything so we are proving them wrong. Vegan or non-vegan – when people taste our products, they go mad for them.”
Approved by the Vegan Society, Drummy says the Fry’s range “contain all the goodness you’d find in meat without the badness". All the products are rich in vegetable protein, fibre and carbohydrates, and they don’t contain any of the hydrogenated fat and cholesterol found in standard meat.
“The products don’t only imitate the taste of their meat counterparts but they are made to resemble them as well. This helps make it an easier transition for meat-eaters who need to cut back on their intake for medical reasons.”
Valued at £626m in 2005, Mintel have estimated that the UK meat-free market will grow to be worth £780m by 2009. Concurrent with this growth is the increased popularity of dairy substitutes – UK sales of soya-based milk, desserts, cream and yoghurts have risen by 7 per cent in value over the last year.
Beanies has also capitalised on this trend.
“We started importing vanilla, strawberry and chocolate vegan ice-cream in March last year from a Belgium-based company called B’Nice. It’s made from rice – so it’s called ‘Rice’ rather than ‘Ice’ cream! We’d already sold 1,500 cases by December last year.”
Forget beans and lentils, Drummy says advances in food manufacturing mean that most foods can now be replaced, making veganism much more accessible to the mainstream. “You can even buy vegan jelly beans and marshmallows now!” she notes.
Beanies has been growing an average of 65 per cent every year since it launched. Turnover now stands at £500,000 and Drummy is confident about the future growth of the business.
“The media are definitely picking up on the health benefits of veganism. Programmes like Gillian McKeith’s ‘You are what you eat’ and the recent one by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in which he exposed the cruelness involved in factory farming are starting to make people think about where the food on their dinner plate comes from.”
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