Europe’s first vegan supermarket chain is looking pretty unhealthy

Veggies: good for you, maybe not so good for business.
Veggies: good for you, maybe not so good for business.
Image: Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach
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One of Europe’s pioneering vegan grocery chains is starting to bite the dust, and not in the earth-friendly sense.

Some 1 million vegans live in Germany, a number that began growing long before Veganz, the first vegan grocery store in the country, opened in 2011. Since then, the market share of Veganz, founded by Jan Bredack, a former Daimler Group executive, has shrunk, bit by bit, as competitors entered the fray.

The company has announced that it will close at least four of its nine branches. Bredack said that simple supply and demand economics have driven the company to overhaul how it does business, with too many competitors cropping up to serve the same relatively small consumer base.

Media outlets in Germany and around the world have reported that the retailer’s parent company, Veganz GmbH, filed for formal bankruptcy, something the company has denied in a statement (pdf, in German). While it maintains that it’s not insolvent, it is filing for bankruptcy for some of its subsidiaries, which is not expected to impact the parent company.

Bredack came up with Veganz in the midst of his own soul-searching. In a 2015 interview with Organic Health & Wellness magazine, the former auto executive explained he was feeling burnt out at work in the automotive industry, so he took some time off.

“Then I fell in love with a woman who was a vegetarian, so I tried out the vegetarian lifestyle and soon afterwards became a vegan,” he said in the interview. “Back then it was difficult finding vegan foods, and I stood in the grocery store wondering which products I could buy—and that is when I hit upon the idea of opening a vegan supermarket.”

The company went on to open stores in six German cities, in addition to Prague and Vienna. Its business grew exponentially after 2014, when it became a wholesale supplier for hundreds of retail stores throughout Germany, including Globus and Metro stores.

Bredack isn’t entirely out-of-luck. Even as it shuts retail stores, the parent company, Veganz GmbH, will likely refocus its efforts on catering and wholesale products.