Plant Alternative is absolutely unique in its USP: veganised versions of the UK’s favourite Indian ready meals, products that stand far out from other ready meals on the market due to their restaurant quality and authentic flavours, as well as their vegan “Shicken” meat which is quite unlike others on the market.
The London-based family brand has seen huge success since catching the attention of Matthew Glover just last year and has already bagged its first retail partnership with CostCo.
We caught up with founder Satvinder Bains to find out about the background to the product range and her passion for bringing authentic Indian flavours vegan-friendly dishes.
What is the background behind Plant Alternative/Shicken?
Having grown up as a vegetarian in Nottingham with a North Indian heritage and a passion for cooking authentic Punjabi food, I was inspired by my mother and grandmother. I have always had a passion for cooking even at an early age, watching my mum in the kitchen and helping her whenever I could.
The beauty of Indian cuisine is that the majority is naturally vegetarian and with some small amends can be easily adapted to a vegan recipe. Through Plant Alternative I want to allow consumers across the UK to experience and enjoy the home-cooked food that I and my family have enjoyed for years.
We wanted to bring our authentic hand-crafted curries to more people, while also doing something positive to help the planet – so [SHICKEN] was born. Our products make choosing plant-based alternatives easier; because small changes can make a big difference.
Why did you start the business?
Our family founded Love Occasions in 2014, a successful Punjabi catering business serving traditionally-cooked authentic Indian food at events and wedding parties of up to 1,000 guests, across the UK at a time when very few caterers were offering vegetarian options.
Since 2018 however, I’ve dedicated my time to developing Plant Alternative meals, bringing together my passion for traditional North Indian food with 20 years of experience in the catering industry – what drives me? I want to make a positive impact on the environment and animal welfare, and I intend to do this one curry at a time. Curry remains the most popular cuisine in the UK with consumers eating on average 100,000kg of curry every week, with Chicken Tikka Masala the most popular dish.
Tell us about your personal or company mission.
My mission with our SHICKEN range is to allow consumers in the UK to make simple changes to their diet to follow a plant-based lifestyle without missing the taste and texture of meat. The aim of Plant Alternative and SHICKEN is simple, we want to offer consumers an easy and convenient way to make simple weekly switches by opting for our traditional, chef-made restaurant-quality meat-free versions of the most popular Indian meals, sides and snacks.
Imagine if you could still enjoy a meat-free plant-based Chick’n Tikka Masala made with our unique Shicken pieces which had the exact same texture and great quality taste and flavour of the real chicken Tikka Masala. How easy would this make switching to a plant-based diet, making a positive impact on our environment?
What is Shicken?
Our [SHICKEN] pieces are naked without any breadcrumbs or batter added. Since the boom of veganism, there are several companies that have developed and launched a chicken meat-free replacement, whether that takes the form of a vegan chicken nugget, vegan chicken burger or vegan fried chicken. Most of these products have used soy, vital wheat gluten, seitan, pea protein or some other plant-based meat substitute ingredient.
The combination of marinated and flame-grilled [SHICKEN] vegan pieces and authentic hand-crafted Indian curry sauces have allowed Plant Alternative chefs to produce the closest vegan match to some of the UK’s most popular Asian chicken restaurant meals. Once the finishing touches have been made, the meals are flash-frozen to lock in flavour and nutrition, packed in 100% biodegradable and recyclable packaging.
Who is your target consumer?
Indian Food is consumed by 90% of the adult UK population with 11% (7.7m) eating curry 3-7 times a week, 22% (15.4m) eating curry every week. In addition, 41% of families are opting for a flexitarian diet or meat-free diet and 65% of UK consumers are trying vegetarian or vegan meals in the last 12 months.
“Indian Food is consumed by 90% of the adult UK population with 11% (7.7m) eating curry 3-7 times a week”
Indian Food is consumed by 90% of the adult UK population with 11% (7.7m) eating curry 3-7 times a week, 22% (15.4m) eating curry every week! [SHICKEN] is for vegans, vegetarians, flexitarians and meat-eaters – our products are suitable for everyone who loves Indian food. We guarantee the taste will blow you away. Not literally, mild spice only for this one!
Congratulations on the Costco listing! Which product are you launching?
Plant Alternative launched [SHICKEN] Tikka Kebab Skewers which consists of ten vegan chicken skewers marinated in a secret tikka spice mix marinade, into all UK Costco stores earlier this month. We’re really keen to expand our offering and ensure SHICKEN is accessible to as many people as possible, so when the opportunity to work with Costco came up we were delighted.
What does 2022 have in store for you and your business?
Plant Alternative was only founded in July 2020 during the lockdown and started selling online in November 2020. By October 2021 it was announced Veg Capital, the UK vegan investment fund, had invested in our plant-based frozen meal service Plant Alternative and our highly realistic Shicken.
So, within a year we have successfully secured funding from Veg Capital and Matthew Glover, voted as one of the most influential people in the global plant-based movement. From the 1st January 2022, we started distribution and supply of our Shicken Tikka Kebabs into Costco UK and Costco Iceland.
Myself and the team are very excited about what 2022 has to offer and our continued growth!
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