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Fry's flies high with Entrepreneur Award

Durban-based Fry's Vegetarian was recently named winner of the Emerging Entrepreneur category of Ernst & Young's South African chapter of the World Entrepreneur Awards, in recognition of their optimism, innovation and growing success.
Committed vegetarians Wally and Debbie Fry cooked up a cottage industry that has become an international success.
Committed vegetarians Wally and Debbie Fry cooked up a cottage industry that has become an international success.
Nineteen years ago two committed vegetarians, Wally and Debbie Fry, began experimenting in their family kitchen in Durban to find protein alternatives for their own consumption, and today this company has become an international success.

Ernst & Young's World Entrepreneur Awards programme is a business award for entrepreneurs, run in 125 cities in 40 countries. Recognised globally, the award provides a way of encouraging entrepreneurial activity and recognising the contribution of outstanding men and women who inspire others with their vision, leadership and achievement.

Exceptional tenacity and determination

The Emerging Entrepreneur category, which was introduced in 2005, was created to single out and acknowledge individuals who showed exceptional tenacity and determination in building a successful enterprise and helping to fuel economic growth in South Africa. The criteria used for the judging of the awards within this category included innovation, entrepreneurial spirit, personal integrity, financial performance, strategic direction and national/global impact. Furthermore, each nominee needed to be a founder/owner (or joint founder/owner) primarily responsible for the recent performance of a company, the company needed to be at least three years old and have an annual turnover of at least R25 million.

Adverse socio-economic challenges

Ajen Sita, CEO for Africa at Ernst & Young said: "It is well known that emerging markets face two adverse socio-economic challenges: alleviating poverty and job creation. We also know that in order for South Africa to overcome these challenges we need entrepreneurs who undoubtedly provide the fuel which keeps our economy running. Debbie and Wally Fry are an excellent example of people who make a difference in their community by creating employment opportunities, as well as providing a much needed product offering to all vegetarians, that of tasty and delicious meals."

Innovation is key

"The standard of competition in the emerging category has been very exciting, and this year was no exception. Growth and innovation are intimately linked, and the Frys have connected their innovation to profit. For a business that was founded on basic personal needs to go on to supply millions of people around the world with its ground-breaking products, it is of no surprise that the judges were impressed and chose Wally and Debbie for this award. I think that innovation is key in the Fry Group business because they protect the free-thinking, creative behaviours that have launched them on their journey to market leadership. With that theme and culture of creativity, the Fry Group business is going places, while it remains a close family business," said Zanele Xaba, country leader for the South African chapter of the World Entrepreneur Awards.

Minimising detrimental impact

"Winning this award makes all our efforts and hard work over the last 19 years even more worthwhile. We love what we do. Not only are we providing meat free alternatives for people globally, but by creating and manufacturing tasty vegan, products, we are assisting in minimising the detrimental impact that the meat, fish, poultry and dairy industries currently have on our beautiful planet," said Wally Fry, MD of Fry Group Foods. "We are also proud to have launched and funded the Meat Free Mondays initiative in South Africa on behalf of various non-profit organisations, such as Beauty Without Cruelty and Animal Rights Africa, who have the same vision and goal as we do in taking steps to help the environment."

Fry's Group Foods produces thousands of tons of vegetarian products per year, and employs over 250 people. The whole family is involved in the running of the business. Products are available in over 12 000 outlets, not only locally, but as far afield as the UK, Australia, India and Dubai. Products are available in the freezer section of leading supermarkets. For more information about Fry's Vegetarian products, go to

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