From a craving for vegan cheese to a fast-growing food business – the story of Hello Friend Foods dates back to a chance Uber meeting.
The journey began when Bree Gaudette, founder of Hello Friend Foods, was looking for an alternative solution for dairy cheese. However, there weren’t many choices at supermarkets.
“After being vegan for about a year, I found that the vegan cheese options on the market were few and far between,” she said.
Gaudette finally found a way to create her own vegan cheese after many experimentations in her kitchen. During that time, she gave up her house cafe management role to work in house prep cooking.
“I had no formal chef training but heaps of persistence, so I worked in a cafe kitchen during the day and experimented in my own kitchen at night.”
Bree met her business co-founder Matthew Ronalds during an Uber trip: he was the driver and they struck up a conversation.
“Matthew picked me up as a passenger while he was driving for Uber. Little did I know that I had just met the future co-founder of a business that would turn both of our lives upside down.
“I would manage our social media and customer relations, and Matthew would use his skills in spreadsheets and systems to figure out how to create the back end and maintain the business.”
The pair built the recipes together then researched starches, binders and proteins. In 2018, Hello Friend Foods was launched.
“The response was overwhelming, and people were trying to place orders before we’d even launched,” said Gaudette.
During the first year of the business, struggling to locate their own equipment, the pair worked in a local cafe’s kitchen from 4pm to 6am making their cheese until early last year, they were able to set up their own commercial kitchen.
“Everything we make is handmade, free from lactose and palm oil. We also don’t use any gluten or nuts in our products, which sets us apart from other vegan nut-based cheeses,” Gaudette said.
Hello Friend Foods supplies both vegans and non-vegans with hand made cheese from their kitchen in Cheltenham, Victoria. The brand also operates an online store, offering access to vegan products across Australia during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
To grow their food revolution and expand into international markets, Hello Friend Foods has embarked on an equity crowdfunding campaign through Birchal.
“The dairy-free products industry is booming, and showing no signs of slowing down,” said Robin Holt, senior campaign manager at Birchal. “Hello Friend Foods’ products fit perfectly in this market.”