Biffs Jack Shack, the dirty vegan trader specialising in deep-fried jackfruit, has taken the street food scene by storm this year. MCA looks at the trend-surfing concept and its prospects for growth.
One of Kerb’s star traders this year, a market whose alumni includes Pizza Pilgrims, Bao and Bleecker Burger, Biff’s Jack Shack was not even an idea this time last year.
Founder Biff Burrows’s Eureka moment came after he decided to go fully vegan during a backpacking holiday in Germany in Christmas 2016.
A former committed carnivore, Burrows knew he would need all the help he could get to stay on the straight and narrow, and he set about creating a vegan alternative to what were once his favourite things to eat – chicken wings and burgers.
Jackfruit, which he discovered had a fibrous, almost pulled pork-like texture when braised, has become his calling card and the hero ingredient of Biff’s Jack Shack.
Ignoring the strong association with vegan food and healthy eating, Biff’s takes a junk food approach to plant food, a trend that has been popular in America for some years now.
“I say it’s a big vanity project,” Burrows told MCA. “I realised how poor the options were for the things I used to love most, burgers and wings, and so I sought out the thing I thought was the closest to meat’s texture and versatility.
“I needed a beefy alternative, otherwise I’d be tempted to go back, so I created it for me, and it turned out everyone else loved it too.”
Taking a favour-first approach, with months of testing the best seasonings, batters and spicing, Burrows’ zeitgeist-tapping concept has led to national newspaper coverage, TV appearances and a rolling residency at The Haunt pub in Stoke Newington.
While keeping up with various Kerb market appearances, in the new year he hopes to secure his first bricks and mortar site in London, or possibly Brighton, the vegan-friendly city where he first road-tested the concept at pub pop-ups and street food markets.
According to Peter Linden, MCA’s market analysis manager, the emergence of ‘dirty’ vegan cuisine taps into the same consumer demand for indulgent meaty concepts such as MEATLiquor, Red’s True BBQ and Chicks n Sours.
He said: “There is definitely a trend around ‘dirtier’ vegan dishes, that tap into the same premium and indulgent dishes that have previously only been available for meat eaters. By Chloe is a good example of this, having been successful in New York and now coming to London in early 2018. Temple of Seitan in Hackney is another example, where the Temple Spicy Burger has seitan, a Japanese vegan meat alternative, and the cheese is actually Violife, made from coconut oil and starch.
He added: “Over the last few years we have seen an explosion of premiumised, informal and indulgent concepts, such as MEATLiquor, Red’s True BBQ and Chicks n Sours.
“These new vegan concepts are tapping into the same demand but also addressing the trend towards lower meat consumption levels and rising flexitarianism. This new intersection of ‘vegan and dirty’ makes sense, and is an area where we expect to see notable growth over the next 5 years.”
Kerb, the market that has nurtured Biff’s Jack Shack in its incubator scheme, has tipped it for big things, and predicted more dirty vegan food to come through the ranks.
Alison O’Reilly, head of marketing at Kerb, said: “We are well aware of the vegan food explosion in London and it’s growing popularity, but what Biff’s Jack Shack are doing is totally unique and really clever.
”They saw an opportunity in vegan junk food and with their deep-fried jackfruit wings and burgers, and are unique in providing indulgent alternatives for veggies and vegans.
”It is something that stands up against all other street food for even the meat-eaters among us. Given their success, we expect to see more of the same coming our way”.