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 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?
Interestingly our product innovations have always primarily been driven by the family. As a family of vegetarians, we only make products we want to eat ourselves. The Fry’s grandkids are also our most active taste-testers. All new products are tested by them first, and if they love them then we move to the next stage of development. We are also listening more and more to global consumer trends, especially now that plant-based eating has become so massive.