There are plenty of businesses that like to tell you they treat their staff like family. Few, however, do so as authentically as The Fry Family Food Company.
Perhaps that’s because the company’s genesis lies in co-founders Debbie and Wally Fry’s desire to make the world a better, more compassionate, place for their own family and others like them.
Founded in 1991, the Durban-based company has been at the forefront of bringing plant-based meat alternatives to market. Back then, people thought Debbie and Wally were crazy.
Time and persistence have, however, paid off. Fry’s is now a household name in South Africa with an increasingly large presence in key markets around the globe.
Throughout the history of the Fry Family Food Company, Debbie, Wally, their children, and (more latterly) grandchildren have featured in the company’s packaging and marketing collateral.
In some companies, it would be easy to write that kind of thing off as a cheap marketing stunt, but the Fry children all remain intimately involved in the business.
Oldest daughter Tammy is the international marketing director, and her husband Richard is a former company director. Middle daughter Hayley is technical director, while her husband Shaun is a sales director at the company. Stacey, the youngest of the Fry daughters, is a packaging technologist.
That familial culture has spread its way through the business, with the entire staff complement treated as an extension of the family.
Engage Me recently got the chance to talk to Tammy Fry about how that culture’s paid off, how Fry’s imparts its mission to its employees, the CSR initiatives it’s involved in, and what the future holds for this innovative company.
Engage Me: Family is a big part of the Fry’s brand. How does that translate into the company culture?
Tammy Fry: The family is still involved in every aspect of the business – this means that our culture is very family-orientated. We work hard alongside our teams, we show kindness to each other, and we treat everyone as we would a family member – fairness, honesty, compassion, trust, and love – these are the cornerstones upon which our culture is built.
EM: How does Fry’s impart its mission of creating delicious plant-based food alternatives to its employees?
TF: Our mission is shared with all of our staff – we have doctors and dieticians speaking to the staff about healthy food choices, we showcase documentaries, we share customer feedback with the staff, and of course, everyone gets to try the latest, exciting product development!
EM: How has the Fry’s company culture evolved as the company’s grown?
TF: We are extremely fortunate to have retained a very loyal staff compliment at Fry’s. A large proportion of our staff members have been working for the company in excess of 10 years and we even have some employees who have been here for over 20 years – almost as long as the company has been in operation for!
As the company has grown, our staff compliment has increased, but it is still a very close-knit team that employs an open-door policy at all levels.
EM: What have been some of the most important employee milestones in the company’s history?
TF: One of the biggest achievements stemmed from the Co-Founders of the Company, Debbie and Wally Fry, who were awarded the Ernst & Young World Entrepreneur of the year award in 2010. This was a great testament to their amazing journey and vision for the Fry Family Food Company.
EM: What kind of CSR initiatives is Fry’s involved in? Are employees encouraged to participate?
TF: We are involved in Food For Life’s feeding scheme initiatives.
We provide donations to various charity organisations, including to the SPCA and Sea Shepherds, amongst many others.
We have donated containers that stored our ingredients to groups in need, including a to a children’s home, and to a local community group who will be turning the containers into an admin and music facility.
EM: What are some of the things Fry’s is looking at as part of the next phase of its evolution?
TF: We are about to launch a chilled range in the UK and have recently launched a high protein, instant breakfast cereal in South Africa! We are constantly continuing to innovate our range of plant-based foods, whilst growing our international footprint.