Ethical Hedonism Rising

Flip-Grater

Lila Pitcher talks with Flip Grater, founder of local plant-based brand Grater Goods, about her past as a roving singer-songwriter, the early days of her iconic vegan deli, and the bright future of Grater Goods.

Tucked away in Christchurch’s inner suburb of Sydenham, on the corner of Disraeli and Orbell Street, hides what at first glance looks like a garage, but is in fact a bistro. Peep behind the metallic roller door and you’ll find a few of my favourite things: French music, vegan products, and enough decadent smells to make you hungry on a full stomach. Grater Goods is a deli, bistro, and music venue that hosts vegans and flexitarians all around

Ōtautahi. While you may not have had the chance to visit the location, you will no doubt have seen Grater Goods products in your local supermarket, including their Plant Pastrami, CHCH Chorizo, or even Boursan — all fit to adorn your charcuterie boards or fill your sandwiches.

The company, now a staple of plant-based delicatessen in Aotearoa, was founded by Flip Grater, a grazing enthusiast who simply “got tired of hummus”. Come with me as I delve into Flip’s journey from music to food, the Grater Goods brand, and her reverence for the dining table as a space for social ritual. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Vegan I start by asking Flip about her childhood, almost expecting a romanticised tale of dusty books filled with family recipes. Needless to say, I missed the mark: “My mother was not a great cook, but she is an incredible mum and somehow managed to earn a bachelor’s degree whilst parenting five kids”. Despite a disregard for cooking, Flip’s mother instilled in her children a respect for the dining table as the core of a home. “She would force us to sit at the table at exactly 6pm every single night… It cemented [it] as the heart of the home, a place to catch up, laugh, and connect after our respective days”.

Her mother may not have handed Flip the chopping board, but she did involuntarily ignite a passion. “My mother had no idea how to cook for a vegan child, so she put her hands up and said ‘you can be vegan, but you’re on your own!’,“ Flip explains.

Driven by sheer curiosity and a strong interest in activism, Flip borrowed vegetarian cookbooks from the library in which she found a world of international flavours to explore.

Although Flip became vegan at age 15, she favoured her guitar over the kitchen knife for the first part of her adult life. After completing a song-writing course with Andy Thompson, she started touring and set up a record label, eventually releasing four albums. “Music was a way to travel around the world, playing in tiny cafes, big theatres, and great festivals”.

Flip settled in Paris for a few years, where, although being “dead broke and depressed”, she bathed in the world of art — writing songs, making friends, and eventually meeting her husband Youssef, with whom she runs Grater Goods today.

It’s also in Paris that Flip discovered the concept of apéro, the European precursor to today’s board fad. If you visit France on any summer evening, you’ll notice crowds spilling out of restaurants, passionately recounting their days, wine and snack in hand. This concept, called apéro, originates from the latin for the “opening (of the appetite)”. In simple terms, it’s that drink, nibble, and chat that sets you up for dinner. Don’t be fooled though, what may seem like a snack to us is a sacred ritual for many nations.

France’s Marketing and Research Institute, IFOP, found that, during Covid, the second thing French people missed most (to 61% of the population’s agreement) was having a regular apéro with their close-ones. It is this concept of coming together around the table, a few decades later, that would inspire the direction for Flip’s company.

“I was so sick of eating hummus and crackers with my glass of wine while watching friends in Paris enjoying plates of charcuterie and cheese.”

Kai remained a consistent part of Flip’s life during her music career. She wrote two cookbooks while touring which celebrated kiwi cuisine, but didn’t pivot to the food industry until her daughter Anaïs was born.

“I just felt a real sense of urgency around actively participating in environmental action.”

It felt right for Flip to use her passions to push this idea, eventually bringing her back to the dining table. Where she once used it to write songs and books, it would soon be covered with Grater Goods products.

Let them Eat Plants

In the late 2010s, Flip started experimenting with seitan, a meat substitute made from wheat

gluten. After playing around with a few recipes, she sold sandwiches containing those meats through a small window. “I had no money and no idea how to make a food business but I just gave it a go and learned along the way.”

Clearly, Flip’s approach was successful. She upgraded from hole in the wall to running a bistro/deli and supplying products to supermarkets. In 10 years, the company has doubled its total sales, becoming a staple for plant-based food in Aotearoa.

Seeing the positive effects of Grater Goods on the community, I asked Flip for her thoughts on the plant-based movement in New Zealand.

“Aotearoa has had an amazing community of people changing things slowly through activism, politics, business, and education for a long time before things ‘suddenly’ changed.”

And while today New Zealand is globally considered to be one of the best countries to be vegan, it wasn’t always so. For Flip, small things like being able to get milk substitutes today are a huge deal. “In the 90s, the landscape was quite different.

I would carry a bottle of soy milk around in my school bag so I could go for coffee with friends after school”. And perceptions of the diet weren’t great either, as Flip describes an uncle who, uncomfortable at the idea of veganism, gifted her a pig’s heart with a $10 note stuffed inside for Christmas. Thankfully, eating less meat is now not only normalised but encouraged in New Zealand. Data even shows that 50% of consumers regularly look for products labelled plant-based, and Flip is unapologetic about the title: “We exist to give vegans better options and also to make it easier for more people to eat plant-based foods… if using the right terminology helps do that, great.” Other than the ecological incentive, Flip wants

Grater Goods products to be, much like the dining table, a tool to bring people together.

“Hospitality is core to everything we do. We want everyone to feel welcome at our bistro, and we want people to gather around the kai we sell in the supermarkets. It’s about being with each other, sharing ideas and ethics, breaking bread”.

The moral dimension of veganism and the shared experience of apéro are eloquently merged in Grater Goods’ tagline: “ethical hedonism” (the latter relates to the philosophical theory that pleasure should be our main driver in life). I asked Flip to summarise her thoughts on this union of morality and indulgence.

“I think we all want to make better choices every day, but so many ethical or sustainable choices feel like a sacrifice. I don’t believe food needs to be like that. We can eat incredible, delicious, moorish, umami-filled foods that hit all the same pleasure points… while also being better for us, the planet, and animals.”

Growing Grater

With Grater Goods going from strength to strength, I couldn’t help but wonder about artist Flip — is there still space for her in all these exciting business endeavours?

“I find that running a business involves a ton of creative thinking — from recipe development and R&D to marketing strategies and daily decisions.”

The writing of a song, much like the writing of a recipe, boils down to creation: “we’re creating new foods, but also creating moments for people — ultimately we’re participating in creating a new society”.

Flip’s take on apéro clearly has appeal downunder, as Grater Goods is now planning to export its goods to our neighbours in Australia.

“It’s exciting times and we need capital to move as quickly as we’d like to, and as quickly as the market is demanding.”

Working hand in hand with Equitise, an Australian crowd-funding platform, Grater Goods is looking for investors to kick start its journey across the ditch. For Flip, investment is a ticket to expanding the business, but it’s also an opportunity for customers to share the experience, benefit from their growth, and take a stand.

“Truly, it’s only as a community that we can compete with all the meat and dairy companies launching token plant-based options into the market.”

Flip concludes our chat with the simple, yet straight-forward truth: “We all, as consumers, need to invest in and buy products from companies that actually give a shit”. And what better way to do just that, than with a glass of wine and some plant- based nibbles?

If you’re in the Otautahi area, take yourself for a stroll to the Grater Goods Bistro & Deli in Sydenham. Out-of-town readers need not fret — you can find Grater Good products in your local supermarkets and online. And if you’re keen to join the Grater Goods family, find out more about investing at www.gratergoods.co.nz.

Aotearoa Vegan and Plant Based Living Magazine
This article was sourced from the Autumn 2023 edition of The Vegan Society magazine.
Order your own current copy in print or pdf or browse past editions.

Disclaimer
The articles we present in our magazine and blog have been written by many authors and are are not necessarily the views and policies of the Vegan Society.

Aotearoa Vegan and Plant Based Living Magazine
This article was sourced from the Winter 2023 edition of The Vegan Society magazine.
Order your own current copy in print or pdf or browse past editions.

Disclaimer
The articles we present in our magazine and blog have been written by many authors and are are not necessarily the views and policies of the Vegan Society.

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