Meet Brad Vanstone
We make plant-based cheese for dairy cheese lovers.
When did you launch the business?
What led you to where you are today?
Our name originates from Willicroft Farm in Devon founded by my grandparents in 1957. We're reimagining how we consume cheese by combining age-old techniques with a more planet-friendly ingredient base. With Mother Nature as our CEO, we're placing the planet's future front and center behind every decision we make. Having launched Willicroft across 500 supermarkets, and opened up the first plant-based cheese store in the Netherlands, we're aiming to demonstrate that plant-based cheese can be just as decadent as its dairy alternative. Fuelled by concerns about the future of our planet, I began eating a mainly plant-based diet before moving to Amsterdam. I found the transition easier than I'd imagine with the exception of cheese. Unable to find many plant-based cheese alternatives in the supermarket, I started making it at home. Months of experimentation later, and with the encouragement of my nearest and dearest, I founded Willicroft.
What do you wish you knew before embarking on your entrepreneurial journey?
We've learned an incredible amount since starting 3 years ago however if I was to have my time again I honestly wouldn't change the root we've taken. Sure, it would have saved us time had we been more clued up on certain things but the process of learning to deal with setbacks is an important one, and learning things yourself always helps to cement that knowledge. My advice to anyone starting out is to take things week-to-week initially and don't look too far ahead, collaborate, and don't try and do everything on your own. Finally, make impact front and center of your business from day 1 - this is why businesses were initially created and should be why they now exist.
What is the most difficult decision you've had to make regarding your business so far?
On setting up a plant-based project, we immediately believed we were making the world a better place. Having looked at our emissions at greater length through a life cycle assessment, we discovered that whilst our emissions were a marked improvement on dairy, we had overstated that difference and therefore needed to improve it. This was a tough realization for an idealistic start-up but arguably the most important lesson we’ve learned to date. This Autumn we’ve launched a crowdfunder to tackle this issue head-on. At the beginning of 2020 we began searching high and low for base ingredients that fit the requirements and after almost a year of testing have settled on a shortlist of beans and pulses. Having successfully launched our first bean-based cheese, a white bean feta, we are now looking to switch our entire range away from nuts by the end of 2021. By removing nuts from our supply chain, we will also have the added benefit of having fewer allergens. This will make us the first PBC company in Europe based solely on beans and pulses and the second to transparently communicate our emissions on our packaging.
What can you help the VEGPRENEUR community with?
- Impact measurement (LCA's, theory of change, and impact report) - Transitional farming projects (helping dairy farmers find another income stream away from dairy) - Scaling up production - Investment contacts - Fighting Amendment 171 - Introducing a carbon tax on food.
How can the VEGPRENEUR community help you?
We're currently researching and re-imagine the future for Willicroft Farm in Devon. After my Grandfather passed away this year we are now looking for a new path for the farm. The goal is for it to become an inspiration for other farmers either to move entirely away from dairy or to farm in a more responsible manner. The options that are currently being explored are regenerative farming practices (arable & animal), carbon farming projects such as silver pasturing, waste streams and peat, and bog and moorland restoration. If anyone has any expertise in the above topics or can help us secure grant funding we'd love to hear from you.
Fun fact about you:
I adore Cricket
Anything else you would like to share?
Look out for our impact report which will be published. All the details will be on our impact page - https://willicroft.com/impact.Connect With Brad Apply To Get Featured on Founder Spotlight Join the VEGPRENEUR Facebook Group
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