Dear Vegans… try to imagine a grocery shopping trip where you don’t have to tiresomely check the ingredients of every item you pick up.
You know the drill – you look for the Vegan symbol, most of the time it’s not there, so then you check the entire list of ingredients. Even after this you feel unsure if it is definitely vegan — have they listed all the ingredients? Have they made a mistake? If it is vegan-friendly, why don’t they label it? Hmm, is it safe to buy this?
So imagine a supermarket where you could safely buy every item, where EVERYTHING is vegan. ‘Don’t be so ridiculous; there couldn’t possibly be such a place’ you say. I wouldn’t joke about something so wonderful…
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I am ecstatic to discover that as of 2014 things are changing for us London vegans. A LARGE FULLY FLEDGED VEGAN SUPERMARKET WILL OPEN IN LONDON (as well as many other European cities)! My husband (who is a writer) tells me that capital letters represent shouting – good, I’d like to shout about this as loud as I can, both inside computer land and out in the real world.
There are other supermarkets in the UK that provide a plethora of vegan products – not just health food shops like Holland & Barratt, Wholefoods and Planet Organic, but also the mainstream chains like Tesco and Sainsbury’s. Although with time some of these supermarkets are providing an impressive variety of vegan goods, these are mixed in with non-vegan items and in my experience not always labelled 100% correctly, causing some nervousness in my purchases.
So, instead of shouting with joy in the street, I contained myself long enough to give Veganz (the German company behind the new supermarkets) a call to find out more. Due to my overexcitement and persistence, I was lucky enough to get an interview with the marketing manager Ivonne Meyer and the founder Jan Bredack.
It came as no surprise to me to learn that Veganz is a labour of love, but also brings a fiercely ambitious and entrepreneurial spirit. Founder Jan was a lifelong employee of luxury car manufacturer Daimler, rising to technical director and running the company’s Russian manufacturing facility. Around the same time, he met the love of his life and she just happened to be a vegetarian. She spurred him to ‘question the cruelty surrounding eating meat and fish’ so the couple soon began to live vegan. They saw how difficult it was to buy vegan items so Jan took a risk on a new venture — he invested his money to build the first vegan supermarket in Berlin. And so Veganz was born in 2011. Today, Veganz has four stores, and big plans to expand across Europe.
My longest chat was with Veganz’s marketing manager, Ivonne Meyer. Here’s what she had to say:
TheAllAnimalVegan: Firstly, what are the attitudes you see towards veganism in Germany?
Ivonne Meyer: “Veganism is growing in popularity, especially in the cities – Berlin seems to be a vegan paradise filled with vegan shops and cafes. Berlin has 21 vegan restaurants, and more are opening all the time. Being vegan is definitely ‘cool’ right now in German cities. Everyone asks in the non-vegan restaurants ‘do you have vegan food?’ – there is huge demand and it’s quickly becoming more mainstream.
TAAV: How do non-vegans view your stores? Do they shop in them too?
IV: Yes, they do! Our customers are mainly people who are highly eco-aware, people who are changing their diet for health reasons or allergies, people who want to lose weight and get fit, and of course vegetarians and vegans. Most new customers are very impressed by the huge product range and many things they haven’t seen before (including meat, fish and cheese alternatives).
TAAV: Is vegan retailing profitable for you?
IV: Yes, it is. I can’t go into specifics s but Jan’s [Veganz’s founder] risky investment was a good decision.
TAAV: What are Veganz expansion plans?
IV: This year we will be opening stores in Munich, Prague and Vienna, and then in 2014 we plan to open in Leipzig, Essen, Cologne, Budapest, and of course London!
TAAV: How many staff work for Veganz?
IV: Currently 53, and most are vegan… but it’s not a requirement of course!
This week, by fate, I met two London vegans – Hayley and Darrell, who had recently travelled to
Berlin and sampled what Veganz had to offer. Hayley, from Greek Animal Rescue tells me that Veganz was amazing, she found a great selection of vegan delights she had never seen before. Hayley also mentioned that the Berlin store has a very good café in it. I’m sure she won’t mind me mentioning that she found the food to be so good in Veganz that she even put on weight that week as she kept going back for more!
As well as being happy that we are getting Veganz in London it was great to hear from Jan and Ivonne, two people that are building a successful vegan business and demonstrating how veganism is growing. It seems to me that somehow we vegans have become the new cool kids of Europe. If you’re not vegan, you’re not on trend.
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