The Vegan Fried Chick*n Start-Up with Global Ambitions
VFC is an activist brand that makes delicious feel-good vegan food in a bid to win round meat-eaters and put factory farms out of business. The VFC stands, of course, for Vegan Fried Chick*n, and the company says its products - bites and fillets in a crispy corn flake coating - look, cook and taste like chicken, while in fact being made from wheat protein.
The company, which began trading only in December 2020, is the brainchild of Veganuary founder Matthew Glover. Glover met his business partner Adam Lyons at York restaurant, Source, where owner-chef Lyons served vegan meals alongside meat, fish and vegetarian options. “Among the meals on offer was the best vegan fried chick*n I had ever tasted,” says Glover. He thought that if people just tried it, they would realise that factory farming and slaughter were not needed to get the taste and texture of meat.
Inspired by Glover, Lyons took part in Veganuary and then, with Covid-19 threatening the livelihoods of restaurateurs and the idea of VFC taking shape, Glover took Lyons inside a typical industrial chicken farm. “Adam had never thought too closely about how chickens were reared before then, and that visit was a game-changer for him. He went in as a fledgling vegan and came out one hundred per cent committed to getting VFC into the mainstream market.”
You can’t miss the rich seam of activism running right through VFC’s branding. Bold packaging features stylised graffiti and campaign messaging, while the website hosts the filmed visit inside the chicken farm. Even the company’s mission statement* draws on the history of social justice movements but there is no finger-wagging here. At the heart of the company lies positivity and wit, and great-tasting food.
The company’s first months of trading have seen phenomenal growth, overseen by Stewart McGuckin, Director of Sales, formerly of Nestle and 2 Sisters Food Group. He describes the two-month period after launch as “eight weeks of unprecedented enquiries across all channels and markets while also achieving market-leading first-month sales”.
McGuckin has fielded calls from food service and retail distributors, as well as wholesalers from every continent, all keen to stock VFC. In addition, there has been significant interest both from investors and from people wishing to open franchises around the world.
He says: “We have also been fielding large numbers of enquiries from UK food service wholesalers and outlets. Feedback from early stockists has been exceptional with our first partner in Cambridge telling us that VFC accounted for 75% of their total sales in the first week after launch. They saw a marked increase in traffic and orders following the introduction of VFC and have expanded the range and order sizes in order to keep up with demand.”
The small team with huge ambition has already held meetings with several of the country’s retail giants. “I have been in many similar meetings over the years,” says McGuckin, “pitching new products to supermarkets but none that have played out like that. We went in there trying to sell, and they just cut to the chase and asked when can you get this to us?”
The company expects to announce major UK retail and wholesale deals in the coming months.
VFC Products & Stockists
Currently, VFC’s range consists of:
• Bites, Original and Spicy, in 500g, 1kg & bulk
• Fillets, Original and Spicy, in retail & bulk
• Bites & Fries ready meals, in Original and Spicy
They are available online at VFC.co.uk, and two online supermarkets: The VeganKind and Vevibes, as well as from various stockists around the country, including:
• BVRGER, London
• Shrub Grub, Cardiff
• The Good Food Shop, York
• YUZU Streetfood, York
• Veto Meato, Cambridge
• Vx, Bristol
• Nature’s Basket, Wolverhampton
• Chuck Chick, Norwich
• Mighty Wiener, Bournemouth
• Halloumilicious, Worthing & Brighton
Contact and Sales Enquiries
To find out more about the company, its mission and products, visit VFC.co.uk. For sales enquiries, contact Stewart McGuckin at firstname.lastname@example.org / 07388 013344
* VFC’s Mission Statement: Ours is an act of positive rebellion against a system that has brought us climate change, environmental destruction, factory farming and slaughterhouses. We applaud those who fight serious injustice with placards and demonstrations, with letters to MPs. We salute those who take to the streets with megaphones or lock themselves to railings. Our way to dismantle this destructive system is with great food. This is our sit-down protest.