After three decades and 30+ groundbreaking plant-based products, Fry’s Family Food is finally coming to the U.S. The South Africa–founded plant-based meat company, which is a part of The LIVEKINDLY Collective portfolio of brands, will start selling its products (including chick’n nuggets and patties, breakfast links, and its wildly popular Big Fry Burger) at Sprouts locations nationwide beginning March 1.
Let’s rewind three decades. The expansion marks a significant milestone in the story of Fry’s, which started on a goat farm in 1991, when married couple Wally and Debbie Fry started making meatless burgers and sausages as a way to celebrate their own vegetarian journey. You can say it was a win for Debbie, as she has been vegetarian since birth, and Wally was an avid meat eater … until shortly after they got married, that is. They haven’t looked back, and their range of vegan, plant-based products — with zero dairy, egg, or, of course, meat — has grown steadily over time into a multinational brand, found in over 30 countries. And now they’re taking yet another step in their global journey — bringing some of their most-loved products to the U.S.
A Remarkable Vegan Journey
Tammy Fry, now the global brand lead of Fry’s, started off as the prime taste tester. Born on her parents’ goat farm in South Africa, surrounded by animals sent for slaughter, Tammy was sensitive to animal suffering from her earliest years. And, as the family went fully vegetarian and started a food company around it, she was able to explore vegetarianism — and get free reign of the Fry’s product kitchen — as part of regular life.
But that still doesn’t mean it was easy. At that time, being vegan was out of the question. Plant-based meats or milk, quite simply, didn’t exist. “In South Africa, people didn’t know what vegan was,” Fry says. “It wasn’t a thing.” As an elementary and high school student, not only did kids make fun of her for being the only vegetarian in school, but the administration deemed it as anti-biblical. “I felt as though I was swimming upstream,” she says.
Until she found her stride — or, more accurately, kick: She immersed herself in athletics, developed a love for karate, and pursued it all the way to the Junior World Championships, which she won at the age of 18. Over her time competing, she was able to become fully vegan (not an easy feat given the continuing lack of options). This reframed her story, and — combined with the karate cred — silenced the bullies.
“I broke down those barriers by becoming the best version of me,” she said, noting that her trajectory as an athlete didn’t just cement her vegan journey, but it also reframed her story: She now had a set of hard facts (and multiple gold medals in karate) to present to doubters of the vegan lifestyle. “You can recover a lot quicker if you’re on a plant-based diet,” she says, “and you can get all the nutrients you need from plants, even with a heavy training schedule.”
Moving Forward While Staying Unique
Tammy Fry also excelled at school while gaining world fame as an athlete, getting a marketing degree. But there was no job search after school. “I was never going to work anywhere else,” Fry says about the family company. “It was part of my journey to have more plant-based opportunities — and a platform to change the world. My Dad always said: ‘The most successful people follow passion, not money.’ He was right. We built our family business on passion and a deep sense of purpose, to make a difference in the world one plant-based meal at a time!”
As the marketing and communications lead for Fry’s, she has shepherded the company’s messaging through decades of constant change in the food tech and manufacturing space (she works closely with her sister, Hayley, who leads food development). Obviously, the vegan world has shifted from veggie burgers galore to way more advanced fare, and the company’s offerings have evolved and expanded along with the times. But they’ve never lost sight of their desire to stand out from the crowd.
Local Roots, Distinctive Flavors
Food and flavor technology have come a long way in the 30 years since Fry’s launched — particularly for a brand born in a country with basically zero vegan options at the time. But they were way ahead of the game by not only entering the genre early, but also making it their own.
“Our products are unique,” says Fry. “Our food doesn’t taste like anybody else’s.” Just as a couple of examples, she mentions the hot dogs made with real wood smokers (instead of artificial smoke flavor), and the chick’n nuggets made with a flavor blend that includes local African spices (the food is still made in Durban, South Africa, as well as the UK). Other popular products include plant-based chick’n nuggets and chick’n burgers, plant-based pea protein grounds, and the Big Fry Burger, a hearty meat-free quarter-pound burger with a char-grilled flavor.
Changing the World Means Changing Minds
Just 0.5% of the world identifies as vegan, so that leaves the other 99.5% as an untapped market. These people — from flexitarian, to occasionally vegan, to out-and-out meat eaters — are the consumers Fry’s targets, and the U.S. expansion is aligned with these goals, “If you want to change the world,” she notes, “you’re not going to do it with the people who have already changed. If you want to reduce the animals being slaughtered, you’re not going to do it by outreaching only to vegans. We want to connect with people who are not vegan, wherever they are on their journey. Whether people eat two vegan meals a week or are ‘weekday vegans,’ we are here to support them and give them a crutch in their transition.” (Fry notes that, of course, vegans are cherished customers too.)
Just as important as inclusivity, is affordability: The Fry family is focused on bringing all of the above products to market at the best price. As a family business, they’re particularly attuned to fitting into the lives, healthy meal plans, and weekly grocery budgets of families across the U.S. And they walk the talk with their own kin: “We make food that our own family enjoys,” says Fry. “Our children eat these products.” Making it easy for families to eat well is just one way they’re changing the world, one meal at a time.
This is a sponsored post.