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Building a plant-based industry in Nigeria

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By Mercy Kelani

The idea of veganism and vegetarianism used to be a strange concept.

With Nigerian rich food heritage, developing bank of F&B innovators, growing economy, and rising population growth, it will contribute to the world transformation of the food system. Although the country has potential, its market for plant-based foods kick started recently. VeggieVictory, as the first beginners, has secured a spot for itself as the country’s earliest restaurant and brand for this food system. In its most recent New Food Hub interview, NGO ProVeg International aims to have more knowledge and Nigeria’s food industry.

Founder of VeggieVictory and new director of ProVeg Nigeria, Hakeem Jimo, shared credible insights and lessons into opening the plant-based food industry of Nigeria. When asked about what it felt like to establish a first of its kind restaurant in the country, the entrepreneur of various talents stated that “it was a bit crazy”. In the last decade, the idea of veganism and vegetarianism was an entirely odd concept in the African country. Initially, it was said that vegan is similar to vegetarian, however, the latter had negative implications.

Tasty plant-based meals are not a new concept in Africa.

In today’s world, vegan has more positive connotations, and is considered healthy. When asked questions about how VeggieVictory was able to catch the fancy of diners at first, and how the brand has continued to retain consumers up till date, Hakeem stated that all they do is offer the food to people and “let it do the talking” rather than placing much emphasis on the fact that their meals are plant-based. He added that this strategy works effectively with Nigerian consumers.

To Nigerians, tasty plant-based meals are not a new concept, except for the ‘vegan’ or ‘plant-based’ label. Across Africa, there are many indigenous dishes that already exist under this food system. Hakeem added that the only difference is that no one really thought about these dishes — like beans and plantain — as vegan meals, before this period. The new director of ProVeg Nigeria, Hakeem, also emphasised the significance of cost to unlocking this growing industry in Nigeria.

Nigeria would require a different tactic to set up this industry.

Price parity is significant in Nigeria due to the fact that it is a low-purchasing market. No one can approach the country with premium products because majority of the population have a ‘catching-up’ mentality. Many people want to consume meat because many other people don’t consume it so much. Therefore, it is viewed as an inspirational thing. Resultantly, contrary to the approach employed in Western countries, Nigeria would require a different tactic to set up this industry.

Scientific research has proven that plant-based diets have many advantages. According to a 2022 review, these kind of diets include fruits, nuts, legumes, spices, vegetables, seeds, herbs, and whole grains. Consumption of these meals provide health benefits and nutrition. They provide more vitamins, phytochemicals, and minerals. Through regular intake of plant-focused meals, the body absorbs fibre — a carbohydrate which promotes adequate digestion, bowel health, and proper nutrient absorption in other foods. It also reduces total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

Consumption of these meals provide many benefits.

Additionally, it provides necessary vitamins and minerals that are essential for the body. They include vitamins A, C, E, K, and folate, and minerals like phosphorus, manganese, potassium, and magnesium. These nutrients are essential to the proper functioning of the eyes, muscles, nerves, gut, immune system, heart, skin, brain, and others. They are also good sources of antioxidants, which safeguards the body from free radicals, naturally produced in the body but with the capability to cause chronic illnesses.

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