Launched by the creators of the Great British Entrepreneur Awards, Food & Drink Heroes recognises and champions entrepreneurs within the UK’s food and drink industry. Yesterday its inaugural event recognised business leaders across 12 categories; around a hundred founders and co-founders of 66 businesses were shortlisted across 11 categories, with winners judged by a panel of entrepreneurial and industry experts.
The Vurger Co. is a much-loved vegan fast-food chain currently operating three locations in London and Brighton which has seen fast growth over recent years. Co-founders Rachel Hugh and Neil Potts launched their first restaurant in 2016 then became the fastest restaurant chain to reach a funding goal on Crowdcube, £300,000 in three days in 2017. In 2020 The Vurger secured £1.4M in a funding round led by vegan investor Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni and Miray Zaki of Dismatrix Group.
During the pandemic The Vurger pivoted into retail, launching a range of vegan mayonnaise sauces, with a recent addition of two cheese sauces perfect for vegan mac and cheese, which have already seen huge popularity with stockists.
Co-founder Rachel Hugh said to vegconomist after the event: “I am so proud that The Vurger Co has been named Restaurant Entrepreneur of the Year at the inaugural Food & Drink Heroes awards. This year has been extremely tough for the restaurant industry and especially for Vegan restaurants.
Shauna Guinn, co-founder of Hangfire Southern Kitchen, one of the judges for the category, said of The Vurger: “I really got a sense of how much this business means to Neil and Rachel and how it was borne out of the personal experience of not being able to purchase the food they wanted to eat. I liked how they have pivoted and adapted during the pandemic and look forward to seeing the next range of innovative vegan products.”
A second plant-based winner at the new event was Jonathan Petrides of popular vegan meal delivery service allplants. The company has gone from strength to strength, this year debuting a humourous TV ad campaign then in March launching a new range of healthy lunch options. Allplants achieved B Corp Certification in 2018 and since then witnessed a huge increase in demand leading to the largest crowdfund by any vegan business in the world in 2020.
Gareth Hobbs, managing director at Visionary Food Solutions, said: “I was blown away by the applications for the Food & Drink Heroes awards. I didn’t think judging the awards would be so difficult, but the achievements of brands in the face of some real adversary was nothing but inspirational. With entrepreneurs like these, I’m excited for the future of the UK’s food and drink scene with some incredible innovation driven by brilliant leaders.”