This year, more people signed up to Veganuary than ever before - 250,000 people in fact. And it’s not just a form of ‘New Year’ hype - all year round, one in eight Brits now identify as vegetarian or vegan, and a further twenty one percent are ‘flexitarian’. Clearly, plant-based eating is the dish of the day, and the nation is hungry for more.
These days, plant-based options are not only cheaper, but their variety is much more colourful - meaning becoming a mean, green, plant-eating machine is more accessible and exciting than ever before. Still, it’s definitely not always easy or indeed convenient. Changing a lifetime’s worth of habits and tucking into the unknown can be daunting; even if you’re really into the idea of plant-based eating, it can seem baffling, scary or just simply unfeasible to put principles into practice.
But fear not - for those of you looking to find convenient ways of making plant-based eating easier and more sustainable, we have just the solution for you. Whether you’re dabbling in a new diet or going the whole (vegan) hog, we’d like to introduce you to allplants - the sustainably sourced, plant-based meal delivery service.
We caught up with Fraser Williams, Partnerships Manager at allplants, who to gave us a flavour of how this startup is making plant-based food both delicious and hyper-convenient. Easy, delicious and good for the planet, too? We’d definitely like a taste...
Fraser, indulge us, what’s the story on allplants? How did it grow, so to speak?
We’re still pretty young - allplants had its second birthday just a few weeks ago - but we’re so proud of the impact we’ve had so far. JP and Alex, the co-founders, are brothers. They have a background in high-growth startups, including Propercorn here in the UK, and Penda Health and M-Shwari in Africa.
What really captured them when creating allplants was the idea that we can help people eat in a way that helps our bodies and planet to thrive at the same time. And, as a result of creating this impact, help improve the lives of animals as well.
They started out by running pop-up kitchens, cooking themselves for family and friends. Other people started coming along and loved it - they often actually found it more tasty than non-vegan meals. But the consumers knew they didn’t have the time or inclination to be creative in the kitchen and learn how to cook such tasty meals. A lot of people want cooking to be as easy as possible (most of us do at least sometimes) - and they want that whether eating plant-based food or not; taste and convenience are key.
If there’s one thing I know, JP and Alex were passionate about creating tasty dishes from the start, good for people and planet. They ‘leaned in’ to getting going without perfecting the product first. They had an insane, bright vision on what plant-based eating is, or should be, but just being willing to start somewhere and serve up the food was important. A year after kicking off their supper clubs, they won seed-funding which helped them expand the idea, and then went on to win further investment from outside.
JP (left) and Alex (right)
Let’s just go back to the investment point. Do you think venture capitalists are beginning to favour startups with a social purpose?
I’ve found that investors at seed-level are driven by who the team is made up of and the mission behind the idea. Whereas, when you get to the series rounds of investment, there’s a bigger focus on performance and metrics. Venture capitalists like to build their portfolios with enterprises that have strong financial track records. However, more and more, they’re looking at the heart and purpose of a company, because in the current zeitgeist they recognise that companies with positive social missions are in demand by consumers. There are so many interesting businesses to be built around vegan and plant-based eating - look at the Greggs vegan sausage roll for example! Companies are investing in the economic growth and financial capital in this type of food and eating.
Why did JP and Alex choose to go into creating pre-prepared meals rather than ingredient boxes?
We’re all about hyper-convenience. There are some super interesting businesses in the ingredient box space, however, the decision to make pre-prepared meals was in answer to the questions raised to JP and Alex in their pop-up days - it was to offer hyper-convenience for people trying plant-based food.
It’s also about who we think of as our customer. We target ‘meat reducers’ rather than vegans - people who are curious and want to reduce their meat consumption but who might be time-poor, or don’t know how or where to start. We see an opportunity to help those people. Our model seems to resonate well, helping people to lean in to plant-based eating without taking up too much time. It’s also all chef-made, and with our simple system people can just give it a try and incorporate it into their diet.
We aim for radical levels of convenience and delightful flavours. Perhaps in London especially, when you get home at 8 or 9pm, it’s easy and nice to know there’s something tasty and healthy in your freezer, rather than getting a takeaway. It’s reassuring to have allplants there ready.
So, whether you eat some plants, mostly plants, or only plants - allplants is for everyone, right?
Absolutely. We see our mission as helping people incorporate more plants and less meat where possible. If they do take more steps, that’s great, but we’re keen not to be evangelistic about ‘veganism’. We simply want to enable people to taste plant-based food and see how delicious it is. We also offer the idea that, by eating more plants, there is a positive impact on our planet. We want to speak to the benefits of it, without being evangelistic or ‘telling people off’. We’re actively not trying to tell people how they should eat. Saying that, a large percentage of our customers now call themselves vegan or vegetarian...
Converting people, huh? On that, do you have general any tips for people trying to maintain a vegan diet after Veganuary?
I can offer some personal tips! I have eaten plant-based for two years. One of the misconceptions about veganism is that it’s something really strict, really healthy and has to be nutritious. I think what helps with ‘stickability’ for me is ensuring I incorporate a broad range of exciting foods into my diet. Find out what’s delicious and then go out and find a good source. For me, when I’ve had cravings, I’ve made sure I have that Green & Black’s dark chocolate. It’s important, because you do, of course, have cravings. It’s also really key to know where to find great vegan tips - thankfully that’s where the allplants blog comes in.
All of your packaging is one-hundred percent recyclable, partly compostable and mostly reusable. That’s not easy to achieve - was it difficult to get to this point?
Yes. Ellie, our Sustainability Manager, is well aware of the challenges we’ve had. We've been through several packaging iterations already - notable mentions include leaky ‘bagasse’ (a sugar cane-derived material) trays and shrinking film! We set high standards for ourselves, and our packaging is something that's never ‘done’. New research into sustainable packaging is constantly emerging and we want to be at the forefront of the changing tide. This makes for a continually challenging but highly rewarding relationship with packaging...
It’s interesting. For investors, it’s important that a product is environmentally friendly because of certain structures or guidelines from a policy point of view. But, for our customers, it’s much more personal. For them, sustainable packaging is necessary to align with their personal values. For us, sustainable packaging is in line with our mission and our customers’ personal values, so it’s really important to us.
We can relate. So, what does the future hold for allplants?
Focus is key. Now we have a rapidly growing team, the ball is in our court. We have three big pillars of focus. First, we want to continue scaling up our operations to meet demand and upgrade the size of our kitchens and warehouses - the things that underpin the business. We want to make our products more awesome and keep releasing new and delicious dishes every month.
Second, we want to focus on helping our customers order in a more compelling way - making it easier and more user-friendly. And thirdly, we want to speak to more people. The way we have been marketing until now is through typical advertising and talking about our products. But I’m excited to make it more like a ‘dating’ process. We want to expand it, crucially, to why plant-based eating is an interesting movement, share more recipes, build in content and media, and help the community. That’s the immediate focus. We have a fantastic team and, whilst I wouldn’t say we have breathing room, we can put our head above the sand.
Good luck! We can’t wait to taste more. Finally, what is your favourite sustainable product at the moment?
I’m really inspired by Tesla cars. I like the way Tesla is positioned in the car market… They’re interesting and exciting because they lead with how awesome, fast and slick their cars are. Almost secondary is the fact they are electric and awesome for the environment. That’s very interesting for people with a big mission and big heart, because it nets a really wide audience. People can feel alienated from or put off products that lead with the ethics, rather than why it’s important and valuable to them personally. Tesla leads with a really exciting product, which, by the way, is great for the environment. We try to do something similar. We try to provide something delicious and radically convenient and then, secondarily, tell people that it’s good for the planet, too. In that way, we hope it’s good for everyday consumers.
Far from the judgemental, rigid vegan stereotype, allplants radiates positive energy - it’s genuine, inclusive, and refreshingly upfront about the need for variety and deliciousness. Even with all the will in the world, values alone aren’t always enough to inspire change - the change has to taste good and be easy as well. Furthermore, we love how the allplants team inspires and lives out the attitudes of ‘giving it a go’ and ‘no judgement’. Our take-home message for the day? Don’t wait until you have the ‘perfect’ product, idea, meal plan, whatever it is. Just give it a go, make a small step. What have you got to lose (except a chunk of your carbon footprint)?
As we spoke to Fraser, simultaneously eyeing photos of allplants’ latest dishes, the fact that plant-based eating is the easiest, most effective way to help our planet is almost immaterial. We just can’t wait to taste the Cashew Mac ‘n’ Cheese, the Rigatoni Bolognese, the Yasai Yaki Udon, the Moussaka, the Polpette Orzo, the Bhaji Daal…
Check out the allplants YouTube channel for their latest news and recipes.