Start a Vegan “Butcher” Shop

Veganism – a vegetarian diet that excludes meat, eggs, dairy products and all other animal-derived ingredients – has a gained a massive following as many people start to avoid eating animal products for various reasons.

I sometimes accompany my sister who is a vegetarian to the shops and notice the very small selection of products on offer, and they are expensive which means you can’t have a lot of variety if you are on a tight budget. But I thought if there were to be a place where you could buy these products by the kilogram or even each, you can have a more varied, vegetarian or vegan diet. So I Googled it, it is still a bit of a novel concept.

What is sold in a vegan “butcher”
The primary products that are sold in vegan butchers are meat analogues, AKA meat alternatives, meat substitutes, mock meat, faux meat, imitation meat, vegetarian meat, or vegan meat. These are food made from vegetarian ingredients, and sometimes without animal products such as dairy. Many analogues are soy-based (e.g. tofu, tempeh) or gluten-based, but now may also be pea protein-based. These products approximate certain aesthetic qualities (e.g. texture, flavour, appearance) and/or chemical characteristics of specific types of meat.

The current landscape
If you walk into any store, their vegan friendly offerings seems like an afterthought, which usually takes up the smallest fridge space in the store. There’s a good reason for this, there are not that many vegans out there that would cause shops to rethink their strategy. But just because PicknPay or Checkers does not consider it that important it does not mean here is not a business opportunity here. Vegan products sell at a substantial premium to their meat based counterparts and have a much longer shelf life than meat.

What is currently on the shelves
There are basically three major meat alternative brands on the shelves in SA today: Quorn, Fry’s and Linda McCartney Foods (which is exclusive to Checkers). Let’s look at each of these brands and their products:

Quorn is a meat substitute product originating in the UK and sold primarily in Europe, but also available in 19 countries. Quorn is sold as both a cooking ingredient and as the meat substitute used in a range of pre-packaged meals.

Vegan nuggets, soy free meat free balls, soy free meat free traditional burgers, vegan schnitzel, soy free meat free fillets, vegan pieces, soy free meat free mince, soy free meat free pepper & herb sausages, soy free meat free cheese & spinach schnitzels, soy free meat free pieces, soy free meat free BBQ dippers, soy free meat free garlic and mushroom schnitzels, soy free meat free breakfast rashers, and vegan hot & spicy burgers.

“Fry’s Family is committed to producing Food Made Good. Food that is plant based, free from meat, egg and dairy, free from cruelty, antibiotics” etc.

Meat free traditional burgers, meat free original burgers, meat free chicken style burgers, meat free Asian spiced burgers, meat free spicy sausages, meat free original hot dogs, meat free braai style sausages, meat free traditional sausages, meat free polony, meat free pops, meat free golden crumbed

Linda McCartney Foods
Linda McCartney Foods is a British food brand specialising in vegetarian and vegan food. The range includes chilled and frozen meat analogues in the form of burgers, sausages, sausage rolls, meatballs, stir-fry dishes and pastas.

Then there are a few others like Denny mushroom burgers.

Product Mix
What would such a “butcher” sell? Meat alternative products made in-house sold individually and by the kilogram. It can also sell diary alternatives and even vegan desserts. But where would be the best place to position such a place?

Location, Location, Location
When it comes to niche markets, location is very important. You have to look at the area where such an establishment would have the greatest chance of success. Let’s use Cape Town as an example; a friend who has a business in Cape Town was telling me how the tastes differ in the more liberal English speaking Southern Suburbs and surrounds (CBD,  Atlantic Seaboard) compared to the more conservative, Afrikaans speaking northern suburbs.

One would assume that such an establishment would do better in the Southern Suburbs and surrounds than the northern suburbs. Not that there are not vegetarians or vegans in Brackenfell or Kraaifontein or that the people in the Southern Suburbs don’t like to braai meat, it’s just that there will be more in the south and thus better chance of success. We know that the southern suburbs and surroundings already have a few organic markets (Tokai, Woodstock, CBD).

I also think before such a concept it rolled out, it needs to be tested on a smaller scale, in or around the target area, like an organic market.

Image credit: The Herbivorous Butcher