Since launching just two months ago, UK vegan fried chicken brand VFC has created such an impact that Director of Sales Stewart McGuckin describes it as “eight weeks of unprecedented enquiries across all channels and markets while also achieving market-leading first-month sales”. We catch up with Stewart and founder Matthew Glover about the phenomenal success that VFC has seen so far.
Since December, the former Senior Brand Manager at Nestlé Confectionery has taken calls from distributors in the United States, Canada, Australia, UAE, Spain, Malta, Greece, the Netherlands, France, and Germany, all keen to stock VFC’s vegan fried chick*n. In addition, there has been significant interest both from investors and from people wishing to open franchises. It’s an encouraging start for the company that aims to put factory farms out of business.
While the sales were initially D2C only – with the product made in the company’s Yorkshire factory and sold solely through VFC.co.uk – the fried chick*n is now in its first retailer (online supermarket The VeganKind), its first restaurant (Chuck Chicks in Norwich) and its first bricks-and-mortar outlet (Vx in Bristol).
But the company’s big news is that there has been keen interest from two of the big four UK retailers. “I have been in many similar meetings over the years,” reports McGuckin, “pitching new products to retail giants but none that have played out like that. We went in there trying to sell, and they just cut to the chase and asked when can you get this to us?”
The activist brand is also making waves on social media, and has built up an engaged and fast-growing following, already outperforming Birds Eye, which has been on Instagram since April 2014. With so many influencers enthusiastically posting about VFC across all social media channels, the company has been accused of launching a well-funded mass marketing campaign.
“The truth is we’ve done no marketing at all,” says co-founder Matthew Glover. “We just haven’t needed to.”
While vegans are vocal and passionate VFC early adopters, the company’s aim has always been to get meat-eaters to try it. To find out if they were cutting through to that demographic, Glover surveyed 450 customers. “It turns out a significant proportion of our customer base does eat meat,” he reports “and they like it as much as the vegans do, so we seem to be hitting the mark.”
It’s been a whirlwind few weeks since launch, but Glover’s team is just getting started. “Our aim is to be on the biggest retailers’ shelves within months, in other countries by the end of the year, and ultimately in every fast food restaurant there is. All of these things are on our urgent to do list. Billions of birds need us to succeed, so there is no time to waste.”