Talking to Kauai Founder 06/01/11
Laura Cooke chats to John Berry, one the founders of SA's healthiest takeaway stores, Kauai.
For South Africans, there are very few healthy fast food options out there. Being a vegetarian in search of healthy fast food is even more difficult. That’s why when Kauai opened the Kauai Juice Bar in Cape Town in 1996, I got excited. I can still remember heading to their tiny store in the Mother City whenever I was in the area enjoying their unique smoothies.
Since then, they have grown to over 90 stores countrywide. While not exclusively vegetarian by any means, they are still one of the few take away places that has quite a few veggie options.
Veggie Buntch chatted to John Berry, one of the original three who started the Kauai franchise.
First up, tell us a bit about the Kauai story?
My partners, the Harwin brothers, and I came to Cape Town in’ 95 and saw the huge opportunity for us to provide healthy Island Style food for South Africa and beyond. We started with smoothies initially and have added more items over the years that have now become crowd favourites.
Having started the business in 1996, have you seen a change in the South African consumer?
Yes, they finally know what a smoothie is! They are certainly caring more about themselves as well. We see more and more people going to gym and visiting us there, as well as choosing us over the other convenience food brands. I believe the health food market is headed in one direction ….Upwards.
People are becoming more aware of health trends and more fearful of the traditional culture of convenience foods. Back in the day, people never knew what a smoothie was – or even had a clue about wheatgrass juice. These days the nation is just getting more and more hooked!
How do you determine what quantity of your menu is vegetarian?
We try and balance the amount of sales of the vegetarian items with the amount of space we provide on the menu for them.
Is there a big demand for the vegetarian options?
There is a small demand – but our vegetarian and vegan customers have a BIG voice – so they get heard at the end of the day.
Do you cater for vegans? Do you think that there is a demand for vegan options?
Yes, our vegans are very loyal and expect us to cater for them – they keep requesting more variety – but vegan items are generally the slow sellers.
I see that you’ve introduced Fry’s products to some of the veggie options – what’s the response been like to that?
It was a slow start but it catching on now.
I recall a few years ago that the Veg Thai wrap actually included shrimp paste at one point, much to my dismay. Does it still? Do you know why it included fish paste in the first place and was marketed as vegetarian?
It never used to contain shrimp paste, the supplier who was importing the curry paste from the East could no longer supply the brand we were using. We then had to warn customers for that period of time until we could source a new vegan product. I can assure you it is back to normal now, with improved flavour too!
How often do you change the menu, and how do you come up with new recipes?
Every six months we put up new menu panels, but we are trying to introduce new items quarterly.
With over 90 branches, how do you make sure that the quality remains up to scratch?
Getting it right with our suppliers first!
Are you still very hands-on in the company?
I have to be, otherwise I lose touch with what it is all about.
Do you have a personal food philosophy?
Yes I try to make good, healthy food as tasty as possible. I drink lots of fresh squeezed vegetable and fruit juices – get your vitamins in that way. When I do eat meat or dairy products, I use free-range or organic. I eat a lot of fish too. I also try to eat a lot of raw foods with every meal. Water, lots of water!
Are there any new exciting vegetarian options coming up?
Yes, some amazing “Super food” salads for the summer menu.
What’s a good winter smoothie you’d recommend?
C U Right – and our Superfruit smoothies, they are loaded with Vitamin C.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
Thanks for all your continued support and keep writing in those recommendations!
Read more about Kauai here.