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Teesside’s Vegan Pioneers Nominated For National Award

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Charlotte Bottomley and Matthew Wilson in the Little Vegan Market in Dundas Market.

Teesside’s first vegan convenience store has been nominated for a prestigious national award just six months after opening.

The Little Vegan Market in Middlesbrough’s Dundas Market, part of the town’s Dundas Shopping Centre, is in the running to be named the best Small Business in the Vegan Food UK Awards 2018.

More than 90,000 members of Vegan Food UK are eligible to vote for the nominees in this and other categories which include the Best Vegan Pizza Bought at a Supermarket, the Most Vegan Friendly Chain Restaurant and the Most Vegan Friendly Town/City.

The event was launched last year, with Sir Paul McCartney accepting the award for Best Vegan Sausage on behalf of Linda McCartney’s Foods – a company set up in 1991 by his late wife and campaigner for vegetarian and vegan food.

The Little Vegan Market is run by Matthew Wilson and Charlotte Bottomley. They sell a wide range of alternatives to meat, milk, cheese and egg and also specialist products – such as jackfruit, which can be used to make vegan pulled pork.

On the day it opened, customers queued to get in and the shop sold out of beans and sausages before the end of trading.

Matthew and Charlotte started the business because they found it difficult to buy vegan products in the area. Although Charlotte had worked in health food shops, neither had previous experience in running a business.

“The news about the awards came as a bit of a shock – but a very welcome one,” says Matthew.

“The last few months have been a bit of a whirlwind. We’ve been amazed by the positive reaction of people to the business and that’s reflected in this nomination which has been brought about by our customers putting our name forward.”

The Little Vegan Market also has a minimal waste section which offers bulk dried foods, vegan shampoos, conditioners and detergents. It encourages shoppers to minimise waste by providing their own containers.

Matthew and Charlotte have benefitted from the advice and support of Dundas Market Manager David Harris.

“He has been fantastically helpful, passing on a lot of knowledge to help us get set up and to start trading. Without his help, we may not have got our new venture off the ground,” said Matthew.

“I could not be more delighted for them,” says David. “The nomination is a tribute to their great idea and hard work and for providing a service which is clearly much in demand. They have also fitted in so well with rest of the community here.”

In October, for example, Jean’s Kitchen, the café at the heart of Dundas Market, started selling vegan meals inspired by The Little Vegan Market. They proved so popular with customers that vegan items remain on the menu.

David continues: “Space in the market is now at a premium and we are having to create more retail space to accommodate more businesses which want to join us. But, we still want to hear from prospective new tenants and welcome enquiries from businesses who want to join our vibrant community.”

Further information about The Little Vegan Market is available via Facebook.