NORTHERN Ireland’s unique convenience food offering from The Hungry Vegan is moving up a gear with its expansion into new premises in Mallusk Enterprise Park.
From its humble beginnings as owner John Darby sought to find a vegan sandwich, it now employs 14 people and stocks more than 20 locations across Belfast and Lisburn with ‘on-the-go’ convenience food with plans to provide more throughout Northern Ireland.
They join more 61 other businesses in the burgeoning Mallusk Enterprise Park portfolio, enjoying a range of support services.
“The size and scale of our new premises means that our expansion plans will be future proof,” said John. “Emma Garrett and the team in MEP have been instrumental throughout our early growth stages.
“They have provided mentoring support which has guided us through many peaks and troughs.”
Chief Executive of Mallusk Enterprise Park, Emma Garrett explained that The Hungry Vegan is a perfect fit for her own reasons as well as the support they are offering a developing company.
“We were very excited to welcome John to the Park,” she said.” I myself, a life-long vegetarian, realised the great potential for his business as more and more people are enjoying the benefits associated with having a meat-free diet yet there are still limited options available in our high street convenience stores.
“The Enterprise Park was established back in 1992 to support entrepreneurs such as John at start-up stage and this remains the case today.”
The Hungry Vegan began life in 2016 as The Honest Vegan restaurant on Belfast’s Lisburn Road at a time when John his own words struggled to find vegan food: “Restaurants, cafes and supermarkets simply had no vegan options unless you were a fan of dry salad bowls and tins of fruit salad” he said.
As more restaurants were offering vegan options on their menus John realised there was another business option opening.
“For me the next challenge was providing fresh vegan offerings into convenience stores across Northern Ireland,” added John.
“This is why we evolved into handmade vegan food production. We quickly grew out of our first catering kitchen and we were thrilled to find our new home in Mallusk Enterprise Park.”
For Emma, the enterprise park offers practical support to companies such as The Hungry Vegan.
“We offer a full range of free business support services to individuals at each and every stage of their entrepreneurial journey,” she said. “We offer the Pre-Start Exploring Enterprise Programme, the start-up Go For It Programme, the growth Optimal Programme, the growth Co-Innovate Programme and Start-Up Loans from £500 up to £25k.”
But it can be the more practical support that helps businesses lift off, such as in human resources.
“Many of the small businesses we work with require additional staff resources to grow,” said Emma, adding: “This is often a daunting area for individuals when they have had no experience of recruiting or managing staff.
“This is where the Optimal Programme can help. Businesses can avail of up to 5 days mentoring support from a specialist consultant which will alleviate their fears and mitigate the risks associated with employing staff.”
The Hungry Vegan is setting off on the Optimal Programme as part of its ongoing growth.
As international organisations warning that reducing meat consumption can help alleviate climate change and campaigns such as ‘Veganuary’ John notes that 70% of those who buy his products are not vegans themselves, demonstrating the growth potential.
“We are now stocking 23 retailers with five coming on board in the last seven days. We have five more stores to announce in next two weeks with a great announcement coming too.
“Our range can be found in Spar’s, Centra, Queen’s University, Creightons and independents.
“We have had significant interest from investors, which we are currently exploring.”
But more plans are afoot for The Hungry Vegan as they have recently expanded into outside catering and one particular high note recently was to cater for a large wedding with an exclusively vegan menu at Larchfield Estate.
For details on The Hungry Vegan’s amazing food ideas and retailer locations you can follow them on facebook “@thehungryvegan
Mallusk Enterprise Park provide workspace for new & established businesses ranging from 80 – 2000 sq ft
For more details of the support available from Mallusk Enterprise to either start or grow a business email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 028 90838860.