The general impression of Turkey’s vegan community is that they are mostly young college students who are eager for change. They are bold enough to reject the status quo of meat-centric eating and have allied their veganism alongside socialism, anarchism, feminism and other socio-political leanings. It’s not surprising to find that a listed vegan restaurant is actually an apartment or suite opened for business. Public parks, art spaces, and bars have served as DIY hosts to plant-based dining, campaign organizing, and fundraising, all in support of the vegan cause.
To bring veganism into the mainstream, Turkish-born İnci Özcebeci, can be credited for normalizing the word “vegan” in major shopping chains and supermarkets. Starting out as an ethical vegetarian at the age of 15 and then vegan five years later, her diet and lifestyle has evolved to suit her ethics around animal consumption. She first tasted a meat alternative while traveling abroad and returned with a vision to import it to Turkey. Unfortunately, import policies for meat substitutes are strict in the country. “As a result, I declared it to be my mission to produce meat-like products here in Turkey and spent almost a year for R&D [research and development], creating recipes, finding the right raw material, how to make the best taste and so on,” shares Inci, the owner of VEGGY®.
When it was time to try her meatless meat on the market, Inci was challenged both inside and outside of the local community. Purists argued that meat shouldn’t be imitated or substituted. Supermarkets had no idea where to put her products and would place them beside packaged meats or cheeses. A great deal of her work is educating and informing markets about her etsiz, or meat-free, products. She is literally making space on the supermarket shelf for a vegan industry in its infancy. Though she is now supported by a customer base that has fallen in love with her version of Turkish comfort food, her strongest selling point is talking up the health benefits of a plant-based diet. Made from locally grown, GMO-free soybeans, her products have given ex-meat lovers something savory to chew on.
Vegan İşler Gıda Sanayi ve Ticaret Limited Şirketi (VEGGY®)
Cumhuriyet Mahallesi Erkan Sokak No:10 Çayırova Kocaeli, Istanbul
Tel: +90 (216) 472 11 92
This article was originally published in Vegan Lifestyle Magazine, Issue 30. Download the entire magazine at the following links:
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