AVE Group: “We Think That Vegan Nutrition Will Continue to be at the Centre of Society”

 
Michael Schertl, CEO der absolute Vegan Empire GmbH
Michael Schertl, CEO of Absolute Vegan Empire GmbH

AVE – Absolute Vegan Empire GmbH & Co. KG was founded in 2001 and has since developed into one of Europe’s leading wholesalers of vegan products. With over 900 available items for wholesale trade and over 2,500 vegan items for their own online platform, Absolute Vegan Empire offers an extensive full assortment at products for a vegan way of life.

We talked to Michael Schertl, CEO of Absolute Vegan Empire GmbH, about the company and future developments in the vegan market.

You are considered a pioneer of the vegan economy, when and how did you start and how did the development go?
AVE was founded in 2001 by Tobias Graf. Mr. Graf was already a vegan himself at that time and wanted to provide and distribute vegan food not only for himself but for as many people as possible.

In the beginning it was similar to the American dream, “from dishwasher to millionaire”. It all began in the cellars of his own parents. The success was practically pre-programmed, since the vegan industry was generally very small at that time. As the business was going well, he soon moved into a 200 m² hall and shortly afterwards the building was expanded to 400 m². After the growth continued and the hall once again became too small, another hall was rented. Finally, Mr Graf decided to build his own large hall with an office building and to invest in the future. Construction began in 2014, but unfortunately Mr Graf did not experience the commissioning any more as he passed away in the same year. He left behind his wife and his three-year-old daughter.

Which brands and business areas belong to AVE?
AVE currently has about 2,000 articles in its portfolio. These include well-known brands such as Bedda, Simpy V, Wheaty, GoMaxGo and others. In the growth phase, the company has also concentrated on its own production.

Our own products are sold under the “Vantastic Foods” logo. Currently, these account for about 50% of total sales, but we still see a lot of growth potential here.

AVE has focused on three business areas: LEH, B2C – with our own eCommerce platform alles-vegetarisch.de – and B2B wholesale.

Who are your typical B2B customers?
Our most common B2B customers are the food retail trade, specialist markets, gastronomy and communal catering.

What activities are there in the B2C market?
The B2C market has been growing steadily for some time now. The major suppliers have now also recognised this and are therefore constantly expanding their portfolios. However, it is important to us to procure and make available sustainable and tasty products or to have them manufactured especially for us. Although this is not always the cheapest option, it is the better one for us.

Which retailers do you cooperate with, nationally and internationally?
The largest retailers we work with include REWE, Edeka, Tegut and Kaufland.

What demand trends are you currently experiencing?
One of the biggest trends at the moment is chocolate, which we remember from our childhood and which has not been available as a vegan alternative until now. Our Schakalotta or Schakaberry are currently the absolute highlight. We have had these products exclusively produced according to our ideas.

Other trends certainly include meat replacement products. Here, product alternatives such as schnitzel, fried sausages etc. are right at the forefront. Alternatives to conventional fish are also becoming more and more popular. With our alternatives to fish fingers we also offer a tasty substitute. And also alternatives to cheese belong to the current demand trends. Here we register a large demand, particularly in the specialty area with products such as camembert from cashews.

How will the vegan lifestyle develop over the next few years?
We believe that vegan nutrition will continue to be at the heart of society. That’s why we want to make a contribution to improving and expanding the range of vegan foods on offer. For example, in gastronomy, where it will soon be “normal” to find a satisfactory selection of vegetable dishes on the menus.

What are AVE’s goals for the coming years?
Our goal can be clearly formulated: we want to continue to surprise our customers with many new products and provide a lot of variety and innovation in vegetable cuisine!