Tammy Fry, Marketing Director of The Fry Family Food Co. – the internationally successful meat alternative product company started in South Africa – decided to dedicate her career to spreading the word about plant-based lifestyles.
In 1991, after a lifetime as a meat eater, Wally Fry, Tammy’s father, decided to start creating recipes with his wife, Debbie, a vegetarian, with the aim of making nutritious products that have the texture and taste of meat for his family. Now, over two decades later, the business has boomed and is now international as well as multi-generational, with the couple’s children taking over the helm.
Tammy divides her time between South Africa, Australia, and the United Kingdom as the company is very focused on international expansion. “I remember the days in our family’s home kitchen making the recipes. Of course now, the kitchen is much bigger!” Fry’s is now available in 27 countries worldwide.
In addition to the rise in veganism and vegetarianism promoting the incorporation of meat alternatives into diets, Tammy also attributes Fry’s success to consumers wanting to support businesses with a conscience. And, despite their massive growth over the years, Fry’s has never wavered on this. “In terms of the values, the ethos, why we do what we do, our culture of placing principles above profit – none of that’s changed,” she says. “Added to that the way we treat our staff as family, our ethical choice of healthy ingredients, and the way we make the food is the same.” Tammy and the Fry’s team also continuously strive for improvement by constantly searching out better and more sustainable ingredients. Their new ranges include superfoods, coconut oil, and they now produce some gluten free varieties.
Fry’s started when Tammy was 10, and was such a huge part of her life growing up that, when it came to the end of university and the decision to pursue a career, it was a no-brainer to join her parents in the family business. “I’ve always been passionate about plant-based diets, so working at Fry’s is my ideal job. I consider myself lucky.”
This passion saw her start the popular Meat Free Mondays campaign in South Africa eight years ago. Although many questioned her on why she was spending budget on something that wasn’t directly linked to her business, Tammy explains that the campaign is more about education and showcasing what Fry’s stands for. “The Meat Free Mondays campaign inspires people to take small steps, to make a change – even if it’s just one day without meat, it’s a positive change,” she explains. “The education process we were able to do through the Meat Free Monday programme was fantastic.”
The reduction in our overall meat consumption has a positive effect not only on the environment, but also our health. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, heart disease is extremely prevalent in South Africa, with 225 people dying daily in the country from heart disease. Tammy believes that this has a lot to do with diet. “There are so many studies, research, and articles out there that it can be confusing trying to determine the healthiest way to eat. Epidemiological studies are the simplest and most telling. For example, a simple comparison between Americans and Asians show that Americans suffer increasingly from heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis whereas the prevalence of the diseases in Asia are far less. It makes sense that the healthier way to eat is the way the Asians have traditionally eaten. This is a predominantly plant based diet.“
Achieving a more plant-based lifestyle isn’t difficult, according to Tammy. “Fry’s fulfils a really important function for people transitioning to a more plant-based diet, because you don’t have to change the way you cook and the way you eat – you just have to substitute,” she says. “We have chicken wraps, we have chicken mayo toasties, we have pepper steak pies and we have sausage, mash, and peas for dinner. The difference between Fry’s and meat: no toxins, antibiotics, hormones, and cholesterol, no cruelty, and a far lower impact on the environment. Our products have a good source of protein, fibre, iron, and B12. And they taste great, too. I challenge anyone to try a Fry’s Nugget next to a chicken nugget. You may just be surprised.”
Fry’s has branched out this year with the launch of ice cream as well as a breakfast cereal. “This year has been very exciting for us, as it’s the first time we’ve diversified outside of just meat alternatives. We’ve launched a coconut-based ice cream as well as Kasha, our smoothie cereal which is high in protein and completely devoid of any nasties. We also recently launched a range of lunchbox snacks, including Roasted Butternut and Quinoa Balls, Falafel Balls, and Gluten Free Rice Protein and Chia Nuggets.” These products were thought up by Tammy and her sister, Hayley. “We are now a second generation in the business and are so excited about the future and possibilities for innovation.”
Besides being the Marketing Director for Fry’s, Tammy represented South Africa in the Snr National Karate team for 10 years. She believes that being a vegan has helped her athletic career and she has witnessed how it has helped others. “I’ve seen how many athletes thrive on a plant-based diet – Carl Lewis, Tia Blanco, Tim Shieff, and Venus Williams, to name a few. I think that we’re starting to see really top athletes adopting veganism and thriving.”
When speaking about the future, Tammy is enthusiastic about the expansion of Fry’s into new products. “The fact that veganism is so on trend is amazing, and the expansion and diversification of our product range is very exciting.”
As Tammy says, “Small changes can make a big difference. Eat and live more consciously. Your body, Mother Earth, and the animals will thank you.” The wide range of internationally successful products Fry’s produces continues to encourage people to swop just a few items on their plates to make a difference.
For more information, please visit www.fryfamilyfood.com and follow Tammy on Instagram at @eatliveconsciously.’.