Crosstown’s Founders on London’s Vegan Food Scene and Their Own Plant-Based Journey
As the eighth ‘Veganuary’ since the concept was started in 2014 kicks off for another month, it’s startling to see how far the plant-based community has been propelled forward in the last decade. More than 440,000 people have signed-up for the challenge this year, surpassing the 400,000 last January, while a further 1.1 million in the UK are full-time vegans.
We’re proud to be a part of this community, constantly striving to produce high-quality and delicious products that serve the ever-growing vegan army. Another brand with a mighty and moreish plant-based offering is London bakery chain Crosstown. Launching as a market stall on Leather Lane in 2014, Crosstown and it’s doughnuts have quickly risen to cult-like status with 20 stalls and stores now dotted around the capital.
To celebrate this years Veganuary we decided to team up with the Crosstown crew on a temptingly tasty shake which combines Crosstown’s Dark Chocolate & Coconut vegan ice cream with our own Performance Protein. Along with the collab we also managed to sit down with Crosstown’s founders JP Then and Adam Wills to chat about the vegan food scene in London, why their vegan doughnuts had to stand up to the original, and what makes the perfect brand partnership.
I was surprised by the sheer number of vegan options you have available. Why did you make this choice? Can a food brand ignore the vegan crowd any longer?
Very early on after we opened Brick Lane, our second store, we picked up feedback from our customers that they would like us to have a vegan offering. In many cases we had people coming to Crosstown who felt attracted to what we were trying to achieve as a brand, but we didn’t have a product that they could eat. So, our bakery team set about creating a vegan sourdough offering.
Our mindset was that it had to be as good as our original doughnuts; it couldn’t be a second-class citizen. As we grew as a company, we expanded our vegan offering. This culminated with us opening a Vegan Crosstown shop in Marylebone. It was our commitment to the vegan community and their importance to us as a brand.
As we have seen food brands can no longer ignore what the customers demand. Veganism has become mainstream and that has allowed most good food brands to allocate a decent amount of space and resources to create amazing vegan options. I think through education and celebrity endorsements, the general public has become less fearful of the word.
Thankfully, there are many food professionals today who are living a vegan lifestyle themselves, pushing and pulling the food industry in order to create the space commercially for great tasting and quality vegan food.
The vegan food scene in London is booming at the moment, led by you guys on the baking front. What do you think the future holds for it? Which other vegan food brands in the space inspire you?
Vegan food is here to stay and that means that food brands can invest in the knowledge that the customers are going to be there in the future. The important thing now is that we maintain the standard of the vegan food chain and keep pushing forward in expanding vegan offers and educating people on the benefits.
Two brands that really stand out for us are This and The Vurger Co. The guys at This have created a great modern vegan brand and bought it into the mainstream food chain. The food tastes great and appeals to the generations of customers coming through. The marketing and packaging are extremely clever and at the same time cheeky and fun. I think today more than ever people want to have a relaxed and meaningful relationship with the companies they want to buy their food from.
Rachel and Neil from The Vurger Co. are true pioneers in the vegan fast-food space and we love them at Crosstown. They are committed to their business like you need to be when you are growing a food brand. It has been great to see their diversification over the last 18 months and the way they have navigated the challenges that the pandemic has placed in front of them.
From Pump Street Chocolate to Percival, you’ve been a part of some varied and interesting collaborations down the years. What do you look for in a collaborative partner and what do you think makes the perfect collaboration?
I think a successful collaboration is one that resonates with both of the brand’s consumers in an authentic way. There should be a natural alignment in some manner for it to work. We have done several collaborations over the years with other food and beverage businesses where we felt we could utilise their great products as ingredients.
For example, Pump Street are fantastic operators. Using their high quality chocolate within our doughnuts for a collab made so much sense. Percival is different as they are obviously a clothing label. However, we again share a similar ethos and approach to creating our products and are both London independent businesses. There is also a shared history as our Soho stores were down the road from each other. Merchandise had been a regular request from our customers, so it made sense to do a fun collaboration together and launch a capsule collection.
Our collaborations have occurred organically, and this is no different to Form. We discovered Form’s protein as customers and have enjoyed seeing the brand grow since 2017. Over the years, our customers have regularly written to us asking for a protein-led product so it was only a matter of time before our brands combined, and Veganuary seems like the perfect moment to launch our shakes and gift packs.
The Crosstown x Form Nutrition Shake is available now from select Crosstown stores and for on-demand delivery. Along with the shake we have also teamed up to create a range of limited edition gift boxes, which you can order here.