Trying to impress a partner can lead to many things, but a vegan ready-meals business is probably a first!
It all started with a girl – and me trying to impress her. She was vegetarian, so when we moved in together I figured I could learn to cook veggie at home. As a big foodie, this turned into years of tasty experimenting with spices, new grains and vegetables and learning exotic cooking styles.
Then 18 months ago the penny dropped. I realised the environmental impossibility of continuing to rear animals on an industrial scale. That the animal agriculture complex we live in is vastly destructive and unsustainable. I also realised that, unlike every other political or economic quandary, I could immediately and impactfully contribute to reversing this trend three times a day, simply by changing my eating habits.
As an entrepreneur I view everything I do as an experiment, so ‘mistakes’ are learning opportunities not failings. This helped me transition to a vegan diet, because there’s so much to discover about nutrition, ingredients and habits, and many restaurants to explore. My one week experiment became a month, a year – and kept on rolling! It wasn’t all peaches and (coconut) cream, but I was lucky in that the girl I tried to impress (who I’m soon to marry!) was also up for it, and that a gap between projects allowed me plenty of time to lavish in the kitchen, trying out new recipes.
Vegan food is bland myth
I quickly found that no matter how much you enjoy cooking, as soon as we had a string of busy evenings and were too tired to cook, eating became shockingly difficult or boring. You just can’t find great-tasting, ready-to-cook meals for a plant-based diet. I knew by now how delicious well-crafted, plant-based food can be with the right ingredients and skills, and was fed up with the myth that ‘vegan’ means bland and boring, or a one-way street to malnutrition. Also, the way that eating plants makes people think you must be a radical, placard-waving hippy didn’t feel like the kind of change I was trying to make.
The frustrations led my brother Alex and I to investigate how plant-based food can be made tasty and convenient. We assembled a team of restaurateurs, chefs and nutritionists and created a menu to blaze a trail for plant-based eating. Six months were spent cooking, organising supper clubs and getting family and friends to try the food. We built a production kitchen, designed recyclable packaging and looked into the science of how freezing keeps food at optimum freshness (a secret behind most restaurants!) The fun part was creating meals bursting with flavour and nutrition when cooked from frozen.
AllPlants now hand-makes our range of delicious, plant-based ready meals and delivers them to customers all over the country. Our fully-recyclable packaging keeps our dishes fresh for 36 hours, so they can go straight into the oven for dinner, or be stored in the freezer for up to 12 weeks with no loss of nutrition or flavour. We are always creating new seasonal recipes for our monthly specials subscription box, due to launch this spring.
We believe the movement towards consuming less meat and more plants is just getting started, with more than 40% of UK adults either already committed to a plant-based lifestyle or actively reducing their meat intake. Takeaway vegan options are booming, and there are hundreds of recipes to cook at home, but there was no real ready-to-cook vegan offering and still a lot of people were left asking “but what do I eat if I’m vegan?”. That’s who we cook meals for every day! Our team are passionate about making it tasty, affordable and easy to thrive on – or just try out – a plant-based diet.