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Dishing out healthy food for a cause
A VEGETARIAN eatery that targets non-vegetarians. Sounds like a paradox but that was exactly what founders Fu Yong Hong and Justin Chou had in mind when they started Greendot in 2011.
"We just wanted to provide more options for the consumers," says Mr Fu. He adds that their menus and store decor do not give away the fact that they are a vegetarian outlet and their nine outlets are at locations convenient for the customers - shopping malls directly linked to MRT stations.
"It's all about the location and ambience. We want to attract people who are not vegetarians as we want to encourage people to eat healthily as our mission is to help people eat well and take care of themselves through the food that they consume."
This is not to say that eating meat is detrimental to one's health, or that eating vegetables will solve our health problems, as the key is balance, he emphasises. In fact, he says, he used to think that vegetarian food was boring until he met his business partner Mr Chou, who introduced him to an array of vegetarian dishes.
Moreover, the setting up of Greendot had a bigger purpose. "Putting aside religious or personal reasons, a lot of resources are spent supporting the meat industry. The increased use of land, water and resources to rear the animals. Hence, the crux of the issue here is sustainability." Mr Fu also cites Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google's parent company Alphabet, who said that one of the game-changing technology trends of the future is the consumption of plant-based proteins instead of meat.
"Singapore will catch up in food technology within the next five years. Temasek Holdings has also invested in US firm Impossible Foods, which creates plant-based burger patties that taste - and bleed - like beef.
The bottom line is that if the vegetarian food tastes like the real deal and you can obtain the same amount of nutrients as you would with meat, why would you want to continue killing animals?"
In fact, there was a customer who commented that the mutton tasted good and was shocked to learn that it was actually mock meat. Women are the main customers of the eatery and Mr Fu wants to create a bespoke menu for them. Hence, Greendot employed a nutritionist to create a diet suitable for the ladies.
"We realised that women made up about 70 per cent of our customer base. Hence, in line with our mission to take care of people through food, we have created a menu that is suitable for women, for example, food that is higher in iron content."
He adds that at the end of the day, Greendot is a for-profit business, but with a heart. "There are many ways to earn money but we want to make a positive impact by educating and helping people to eat better. We aim to feed one million people yearly with meat-free food."
The business owners also make sure that they close their nine outlets twice a year to do voluntary work with their staff at places such as Thye Hua Kwan Family Service Centre in Bedok and Willing Hearts Kitchen.
Mr Fu says that being a small- and medium-sized enterprise has never deterred them from giving back to the community. And after a recent volunteering event in the Redhill area with NTUC Health - where staff at Greendot helped to clean the homes of seven elderly people - realisation dawned that these elderly people just want someone to spend time with them.
"Charity is also an education. I believe that everyone has the heart to do good and we can all contribute in whatever way we can."
- This article is part of a series showcasing companies that prove size does not matter when it comes to giving. The Business Times supports NVPC's Company of Good programme as media partner.
For more information, go to www.companyofgood.sg