As many supermarkets and grocery store chains across the globe expand the choice of vegan products they offer, one leading UK health food retailer is seemingly going in the wrong direction.
A recent tweet from a FGV reader alerted me to the fact that UK High Street retailer Holland & Barrett will no longer be selling the Fry’s Vegetarian range of frozen food. This news is a huge shock for the UK vegan community. Fry’s produce the finest range of frozen vegan goods in the world. Holland & Barrett has over 500 stores in the UK, reaching millions of consumers up and down the country. Consumers who are now without easy access to a quality brand of cruelty-free foods.
I struggled to come up with a plausible assumption as to why this could be happening, so I decided to go straight to the source. During a few email exchanges with the Fry’s headquarters in South Africa, I was informed that Holland & Barrett refused to entertain the notion of a necessary price increase. Both Fry’s and their UK distributor Beanie’s Health Foods have insisted the small price increase was completely unavoidable and necessary to cover skyrocketing shipping, storage and transport costs.
Beanie’s went further in telling me that this requested price increase is only the second in a 10 year period. They state they are a small, family-owned business that would be supplying to Holland & Barrett at a loss without the increase. I have made repeated attempts to get Holland & Barrett’s side of the story, but to no avail. A phone call on Tuesday morning was never returned and a follow up today was passed between several departments including the buyers, reception and the PR firm in charge of press for the company. The PR people did call me back, took my details and insisted they would get back to me as soon as they could. No word yet. I’ll keep you updated.
My major concern with this situation is how adversely it affects the availability of vegan food across an entire country. None of the major supermarkets stock Fry’s, instead opting to carry the Quorn brand. Quorn is stocked in almost every food store you enter but is not vegan due to the inclusion of egg across the entire range. Holland & Barrett have effectively taken away the UK’s best supply of frozen vegan foods with this decision.
Without an official statement from Holland & Barrett to draw on, it is impossible to know what motivations are driving this decision. Does Holland & Barrett have cashflow problems? Unlikely. Holland & Barrett and its parent company NBTY were purchased by financial mega-company and investment firm The Carlyle Group last year in a US 4 billion dollar deal. If you would like to know more about this new parent company, check out the Wikipedia entry here. I can’t imagine cashflow is a problem for them.
I believe it is an enormous setback for vegans and potential vegans if an amazing range such as Fry’s disappears from the shelves of a major UK retailer. The sausages, schnitzels, cottage pie, sausage rolls, chicken style strips, nuggets, slicing sausage and other meat-free items make living cruelty-free a whole lot easier for many people. I think we should make every effort to convince Holland & Barrett that there is a huge market for these wonderful vegan products in the UK and they should reconsider their decision.
Please join me in reaching out to Holland & Barrett and asking for the guaranteed return of Fry’s Vegetarian to their freezers immediately. Here are some options to do so:
1. Visit your local store and voice your concerns. Ask the manager to pass on your concerns to Head Office.
2. Phone the Holland & Barrett head office and tell them you want Fry’s back in store. The number is 02476 244 400.
3. Email the company at firstname.lastname@example.org and let them know of your concerns.
4. Write an old-fashioned letter to let them know you want Fry’s back:
Samuel Ryder House
I would love to know how many of us are speaking up for these wonderful products and companies. Let’s work hard to keep them in prominent UK stores. Please leave a comment below informing of the action you have taken and any response you receive.
Visit here for an earlier post on Fry’s. Selected Fry’s products remain available in independent health food retailers.