Irene’s Gourmet has become an iconic brand in South Africa’s vegan food market. The plant-based range includes sauerkraut, kimchi, coconut yoghurt, Mozzarella, Gouda, Cheddar, Meltme, pesto, vegan butter, patties, falafel and more. All products are developed by Irene herself, and made with love by the team that strives for making vegan food accessible to all South Africans.
Irene has always been a foodie, trying out new dishes and spending a lot of time in the kitchen to develop new ideas. An artist by profession, she started applying her creativity fully on food in 2014 and so Irene’s Gourmet was born. Irene has been vegetarian since the age of 16 and became fully vegan about 10 years ago. Back then it was disappointing how few options were available for vegans. Though over recent years the vegan food market has been booming, some products are highly expensive, and that’s where Irene and her husband Jason aim to make a difference: “We want everybody to have a choice to eat vegan, and within the boundaries of using natural plant-based and natural ingredients without adding a lot of commercial additives, we aim to offer a range that is reasonably priced so that eating vegan is not only for the well off.”
Starting small, finding the right equipment that was strong enough to endure long production days and still affordable, posed a challenge. “After looking at many power blenders we decided to try an OmniBlend blender as the value for money looked promising. Well, I can assure you that we were definitely not disappointed! We now have 3 OmniBlend blenders; They run for hours every day making everything from plant-based milks, cheese mixes and even the occasional smoothie. I recommend OmniBlend blenders to everyone needing power blenders as I find them to be super strong, reliable and fantastic value for money. Furthermore, the service from the OmniBlend team is truly commendable! Whenever I have had any problems, they get dealt with promptly and efficiently. I also love that the spare parts and extras are readily available and affordable. So if you need a power blender, look no further! OmniBlend is your blender! They are super strong and reliable with infinite culinary possibilities.”, raves Irene about the blenders.
The jump from being a small-scale food production business to producing products for the commercial market and making it available through retailers is a challenging one. Irene is adamant about the quality of food and avoiding the use of chemical preservatives commonly used in processed foods, keeping it as natural as possible. She has therefore spent a lot of time researching and developing techniques to improve the shelf life of the products, while keeping it as close to nature as possible and with great taste.
This has enabled the business to distribute through large retailers nationally, and now Irene’s Gourmet products can be found in selected Spar and Dis-Chem stores in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban, as well as health shops throughout South Africa. Or opt for vegan cheese on your pizza at Col’Cacchio, Andicchio 24, Balducci’s, Fussy Vegan, Leafy Greens and many more, also supplied by Irene’s Gourmet.
Once a month Irene and Jason can be found at the Vegan Hippie Connection Market, which they both love as it allows them an opportunity to meet and connect with people who have questions about vegan food and share their passion for making the change. Irene: “We see a lot of people are moving towards vegan food for health reasons. They don’t necessary not like meat, and that’s why we offer meat replacements too that have the same flavor and texture to offer an alternative for the meat cravings. We want people to know that you don’t have to give in on flavor and taste when eating vegan, we love making food that tastes great.” The Vegan Hippie Connection Market is held on the last Sunday of every month at Pirates Sports Club in Parkhurst from 9h00 to 15h00. Follow the market on Facebook to keep up to date with dates, times and more info about the market.
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