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All About Vegan Store: Q&A with Lisa Ruskin

September 17, 2020

Vegan Store

In August, A.F. Blakemore announced the purchase of the online wholesaler and retailer Vegan Store.

The acquisition has added a solely online division to A.F. Blakemore and provided the company with access to some of the best vegan products on the market.  

Vegan Store stocks vegan food, drink, healthcare and beauty products from countries around the world, including the UK, Australia, America and the Far East. 

As part of the agreement, Vegan Store founder Lisa Ruskin has joined A.F. Blakemore as a Sourcing Manager. She will continue to support the Vegan Store proposition whilst bringing her wealth of knowledge and expertise to the other markets in which the company operates.

We caught up with Lisa to find out more about the company she founded:

LisaCan you tell us a bit about the Vegan Store business?

Vegan Store was set up in 1999 and was the first vegan supermarket in Europe. At that time there was nowhere else you could shop for everything you needed (be it food, body care, footwear, vitamins) in one place. We called ourselves ‘Your One Stop Vegan Shop’.

Our aim is to bring our customers the best and newest vegan products from around the world.

What have been your key achievements in the past 20 years?

In the last 20 years we’ve launched so many firsts in the vegan market.

We were the first to develop a vegan white chocolate and a totally vegan marshmallow (that we had to have made in Costa Rica – long story that I won’t bore you with).

Then in 2002 I realised that honeycomb doesn’t actually contain any honey and is accidentally vegan. That led to us finding a UK factory that could smother these chunky honeycomb slabs in rich dark chocolate, and that’s how Vegan Store’s Golden Crunch brand was born. A huge chunky bar that I’m sure some of you will be seeing soon.

It immediately was a huge hit as ‘the vegan Crunchie bar’ and is still our top seller in the UK, as well as being sold in shops across the world. It’s especially popular in Australia!

In 2008 we partnered with a US company called Go Max Go and launched a range of amazing chocolate bars, including the Twilight, Jokerz and Buccaneers, all identical vegan alternatives to Mars, Snickers and Milky Way.

But we’re not all about the sweet stuff; it’s the little necessities in life that keep our customers coming back to us. That’s the products that they need but can’t find vegan alternatives to, whether that’s a great chorizo or a powdered tea and coffee creamer (not all cafes used to have soy or oat milk).  

And what are your thoughts on the vegan market today?

2020 sees us in a time where the selection of vegan and plant-based food is overwhelming. Vegan Store has now become the place you go to find the best in plant-based food. Consumers want to know that we’ve done our homework and that they can trust us to get the best of the best. They’re not going to get some tasteless soggy soya sausage.

With the rise of people eating plant-based food, whether for health reasons, environmental factors or just to try something different, it’s incredibly important that we offer good quality, tasty alternatives.

Why do you think A.F. Blakemore is a good fit for the Vegan Store business?

A.F. Blakemore was the ideal home for Vegan Store. The demand for our products was exceeding what we could handle in our small team, so Blakemore’s network of stores, sales teams and logistics depots made it a perfect partner. We also love that Blakemore is a family company and builds its business on community and working as a team.

What are you most looking forward to about working with AFB?

Personally I’m really excited to start working with the teams in Foodservice and B2B distribution. It’s a great chance for me to learn from them and what their customers are looking for, and to start developing some really new innovative products.

Consumers are looking for alternatives to traditional meat and dairy products and I hope, with my knowledge of the industry, to help AFB retailers and customers navigate this change easily and profit from it by stocking the best of the best.

And finally, how can people find out more about Vegan Store if they’re interested?

Vegan Store has two websites, one for consumers and one for wholesalers:

Consumers: www.veganstore.co.uk

Wholesalers: www.veganstorewholesale.com

I really hope you get a chance to go and have a browse around our retail and wholesale websites and see that vegan food isn’t all nut roasts and mushy tofu.

Our goal was always to make trying plant-based food fun, exciting and most of all very tasty. I hope you all get to try some soon.

Vegan Store website

Find out more at veganstore.co.uk

 

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