Hello Friend Foods began in 2015, when co-founder Bree Gaudette was struggling to find vegan cheeses that satisfied her cravings. She decided to try making them herself, and soon had some recipes she was happy with.
But things didn’t take off until she met Matthew Ronalds, who picked her up as a passenger while he was driving for Uber. The two struck up a friendship, and eventually decided to start a company together.
In 2018, the company launched its flagship Fresh Mozzarella in Melbourne. The cheese was extremely well-received, and Australia’s first vegan halloumi soon followed.
Within two weeks, they were making so many sales that both Gaudette and Ronalds quit their jobs to work full-time on the company. They made cheese by hand from 4pm till the early hours of the morning, got a few hours’ sleep, then spent the day delivering cheeses and running the administrative side of things.
Soon, they could afford to move into a commercial kitchen and hire machinery to speed up the process. They began to supply cheese to local retailers, cafes, and caterers, as well as direct to consumers all over Australia via their online store. Eventually, they took on a distributor for Sydney and the surrounding area. They added a cheese sauce to their range and hired their first employee.
One of the company’s key selling points is that all its cheeses are free from palm oil, gluten, and nuts. It also has plans to switch from plastic to fully compostable packaging in the near future.
With the exception of a few brands such as MyLife, there aren’t many vegan cheeses available in Australia (though Allen Zelden predicted last year that there would be more innovation in this area in 2021). With its increasing success, Hello Friend seems well-positioned to dominate the market.
But the company has ambitions beyond Australia — it’s also looking to expand internationally. To help it achieve this, it launched a fundraising campaign in 2020 via Birchal, Australia’s leading equity crowdfunding platform. The campaign was extremely successful, raising $672,000.
“Companies like this are on the cusp of a food revolution, and with demand increasing every year, this presents an exciting opportunity for retail and wholesale investors across Australia,” said Robin Holt of Birchal when the crowdfunding campaign launched last year. “The dairy-free products industry is booming, and showing no signs of slowing down.”