Veg Out expands product line

Observer writer

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

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Chris and Dolly Punjabi, the Indian and Montegonian husband and wife team who created Veg Out burgers — a brand of meatless veggie burgers — have expanded their product range since being featured in the Jamaica Observer in early January of this year. At the time, the new veggie burgers were taking hold of the Jamaican market in supermarkets across the island.

Shortly thereafter, the home-based enterprise introduced home-style dal rotis, vegetable samosas, and cheesy jalapeño samosas to their list of vegetarian offerings. Roti is essentially a type of Indian flatbread and the dal rotis have split peas as a filling. Samosas are flour-based shells that come with a variety of different fillings.

Dolly Punjabi explained that after the success of the burgers, the small entrepreneurs did some investigations to see what foods would be suitable for expanding the Veg Out product range.

“We realised there was demand for rotis in the marketplace,” she explained. “Rotis are an Indian staple. Our surveys showed demand but no consistent supplier.”

Indeed rotis are very popular within the Indian community but also with the Jamaican market. Samosas are also a staple of Indian cuisine and many Jamaicans who frequent Indian restaurants or appreciate Indian cuisine are familiar with the appetiser.

“The people who know what the samosas are will buy samosas,” the female entrepreneur affirmed, specifying “the Indian community and even the Jamaicans.”

She explained that General Foods was the first supermarket chain to take on the new products before they were eventually also distributed by the other supermarkets with which the company was doing business.

The addition and popularity of the new products meant that the very small production space of the Punjabis' home, which has been used to manufacture their food items up until now, is no longer adequate.

“We added another staff member,” Dolly Punjabi revealed. “We had two and now we have three. We are coming up with another product at the end of this month so I don't think after we introduce that we will be able to operate from home. We are already running out of space.”

The initial Veg Out brand of burgers, which come in three different food bases of black bean, chickpeas and potatoes, has seen an upsurge of sales in the market, with Chris Punjabi speculating that “it could be due to the approach of summer as more people plan barbecues or outdoor grilling. This is our first year of marketing the burgers and we are seeing this rise as summer approaches”.

He also disclosed that many positive reviews of their brands have come through social media as well as a variety of suggestions from an appreciative audience. His wife Dolly is encouraged by this.

“People write to me and give me their feedback,” she said. “They love the rotis. Chris went to a supermarket in a remote area of the island and was told that the rotis were sold out. We didn't expect the rotis to do so well.”

Her husband, who handles distribution himself, has seen his workload and the amount of driving he does around the island increase considerably. He now travels five days a week. MegaMart has now come on board, joining supermarkets like Progressive, Shoppers Fair, Hi-Lo, General Foods and Sampars around the island which carry the Veg Out brands.

Earlier this year Veg Out Distributors was nominated to compete in the Best New Product category of the The Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards 2019.

Chris and Dolly Punjabi are vegans whose business objective is to create Jamaican-made, vegetarian alternatives in the local market. They are also motivated by their spiritual path called 'Science of the Soul', which promotes harmonious living and a healthy lifestyle through a code of morals and ethics, meditation, abstinence from alcohol, and a vegetarian diet.

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