When Javier Fernández launched a plant-based version of foie gras, he thought it might do well just before Christmas.
It had taken a year to develop the taste which was changed 800 times and tested on 150 people.
What he had not prepared for was the scale of demand.
The founder of Spanish start-up Hello Plant Foods had only banked on moderate demand for Fuah! so produced only 5,000 units.
His stock was sold out within 12 hours and Fernández found himself bombarded with calls for more. The company pulled out all the stops to find the ingredients to restock and watched in amazement as 30,000 units flew off the shelves.
Now, they are ready to cope with what, for the moment, seems like limitless demand for their vegan foie gras, which is made of cashew nuts, coconut oil, beetroot extract and a dash of cognac.
The success of this vegan version of the controversial pâté comes as other vegetarian versions of favourite meat dishes are doing a roaring trade as public opinion is turning in favour of more sustainable ways of sustaining ourselves.
A growing list of countries banned production
Foie gras, which is the liver of a duck or goose which is fattened by force-feeding, has been a target for animal rights campaigners for many years.
However, many producers of the meat pâté insist that the animals do not suffer if the process is carried out properly.
Fernández said he believes the appetite for vegetarian products which look – and taste – a lot like their meat versions is one of the reasons for this craze.
Two years ago, the French cook Fabien Borgel launched a vegan version of foie gras called faux gras. Vegetarian burgers are growing in popularity.
Political opposition to foie gras because of the controversy surrounding the pâté is growing.
King Charles has banished foie gras from all royal residences. The US states of California and New York also want to ban the product.
Since 2016, only five European countries produce foie gras: France, Spain, Belgium, Bulgaria and Hungary.
The production of the pâté has been banned in Britain, Germany, Italy, Norway, Poland, Turkey, the Czech Republic, Denmark, and Finland.
Since the bird flu epidemic spread across Europe, it has meant the cost of avian products has risen at a time when the cost of living crisis is gripping the continent.
Animal rights and bird flu outbreak
Fernández said Fuah! hit the market just at the right time to capitalise on all of these factors.
“The price for foie gras has increased 300% because of the bird flu outbreak. Also, there is the photograph of the goose being force-fed. Many people do not like the fact that an animal is being subjected to such suffering,” Fernández told Euronews.
“In England, King Charles has banned foie gras from being served in many banquets. Many other politicians see foie gras as politically incorrect. There is a climate which helps make (my product) and others, a success.”
Fernández does not eat meat but insists he is not an animal rights “radical”.
He insists he is not targeting vegetarians but meat eaters who can, he believes, be won over if they taste a product which seems like the meat version but is better for the environment.
“We are obsessed with producing products which are identical to animal ones. Change is possible when you have people who are not in favour of changing from meat to vegetarian products, but they taste something which tastes the same and which is more sustainable,” he said.
Lucile Papais was raised in France where foie gras was a Christmas tradition. So, when she came to try this vegan version, it was the moment of truth. Would Fuah!, past muster?
“It was even better than the real version because the real version is a little bitter at times. This is not,” she told Euronews.
“The texture is the same – creamy – and it looks the same, with a layer of fat on top. And it comes in the same type of bottle as foie gras.”
Fernández is not content with the success of Fuah!
The vegan foie gras may be the golden goose for the company for now but he is already thinking up new flavours.
“Next time round I will be better prepared!” he jokes.
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