Yesterday, I met with Paula, co-founder and managing director of the GreenBay Supermarket, the new vegan grocery that has opened in West Kensington, London. This is the first 100% full vegan grocery in London. I have already done my shopping there two or three times. There is a huge range of various tofus that I really like, especially the one with mango, as well as trustable eco-household products.
I wanted Paula to tell me her story, when and why she turned vegan and how she decided to open a vegan grocery. Here is her success story.
The recording is in English. A transcript is available below.
My name is Paula. I’m the co-owner and founder of GreenBay. I have been living in London for 6 years. I’m from Spain originally. I’m nearly thirty, thirty in November.
Before I was vegan, I was vegetarian. So I went vegetarian three years ago. Initially, I met a colleague of mine at work. She was vegetarian. She has been vegetarian for twenty years. Talking to her, you know, I realised maybe I should go vegetarian because she was right. So I went vegetarian and then, after a few months, less than a year, I turned vegan. I started learning about the dairy and the egg industry and it just made sense to me to go vegan.
So I moved to London six and a half years ago, and I didn’t even speak English properly, I couldn’t. I came here and I was working as a nanny with a family looking after the kids and everything. My main goal was just to learn English so that is why I did that.
I started and after a year I could speak fluently so I felt more comfortable you know looking for a job and everything.
So GreenBay is basically a 100% plant-based supermarket. It started when I visited Vienna, a couple of years ago, actually two years ago yesterday, we visited Veganz, a vegan supermarket in Northern Europe and I realised that there wasn’t anything like that in London. And I couldn’t believe it. We have some really nice vegan shops like Vegan Crossing in King’s Cross and there is another organic grocery store in Ealing I believe but there wasn’t a supermarket chain like there is in Northern Europe. So that is where everything started. We started developing the idea and it has taken almost two years to open the store from the moment we came up with the idea.
During the week it’s mainly the people from the neighbourhood that come to the shop, because you know during the week every one is working. It is not always easy to access this part of London so during the week I think most of our customers aren’t vegan but people are still interested in these kinds of products and during the weekend is when we get the most vegan customers because they travel during the weekend, they come here.
Initially we were not sure how to approach the business. We didn’t know if we wanted to let everyone know that it was vegan and call it ‘vegan something’. We decided to keep it more neutral to encourage non-vegan people to come into the shop too. We wanted to normalise the vegan shopping experience.
Some people don’t even know that everything they buy is vegan but they still like it so they try. Some people come here and they don’t really know what vegan is so we just say it’s plant based. There are no animal products here. And other people they straightaway come in asking for chicken and eggs and milk and that’s when it gets a bit awkward.
In fact there are so many vegan products that I want to bring into the store but the space here is limited so we can’t bring in more. At the beginning I thought that we wouldn’t have enough products but the thing is that we cannot even fit a third of the products that are available at the moment, so yeah it’s very good.
Initially we were looking for something bigger, for places like Camden or Shoreditch because we know that the vegan community was there, in the end we found this place. It’s such a nice place, it’s on a corner, it’s next to the 222 vegan restaurant. It was just lucky that they are next to us.
For the moment we just opened three weeks ago so we are testing everything and getting everything together and seeing how everything is going. Our plans for the near future are: one is to set up the online store and the second one would be to expand and open more shops across London.
To the people who will watch the video, I just want to let them know that we are here in West Kensington and whether they are vegan, not vegan, interested in changing their habits, their diet and everything, they can come here, we can give them advice, if they have any questions on anything. We aren’t just here to sell we are here to give them advice so hopefully we can encourage people to make the connection, to make the change.