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Plant-based meat butcher Love Handle has opened in late January in Singapore’s Chinatown neighbourhood. The vegan concept store sells a range of alternative meats, condiments, and plant-based dairy—and is the first of its kind in Asia. The meat counter sits at the end of a dine-in deli space. On the next floor, a vegan restaurant serves freshly prepared dishes that use the meats available to buy on the ground floor.
Raw, marinated, and prepared vegan meats are displayed and sold with most being in-house developments. Recognised brands such as domestic success story TiNDLE and the US’s Impossible are stocked alongside. Not sold as standard, branded items are marinated and adapted to have a distinctly ‘Love Handle’ flavour.
Food for everyone
Love Handle started out as a casual diner, selling plant-based burgers but has since been revamped into a multifaceted concept store with a fresh butcher counter included. It has retained an inclusive element, citing that the food is for vegans and non-vegans alike. Diners who want an easy meal head upstairs or grab something at the deli counter. Home cooks can select cuts of vegan meat, already seasoned, to take home and cook. Brisket has proven especially popular.
The ethos of Love Handle is that it wants to “serve delicious food”. The fact that everything offered is vegan is a secondary piece of information. Though co-founder and CEO Ken Kuguru has noted that some vegans and vegetarians avoid meat alternatives. To them, he still extends a welcome, but recognises that those trying to reduce animal meat intake might be keener to participate.
“Love Handle products, including our plant-based meats, dairy products and condiments, are very much for meat-eaters!” Kuguru told The Peak. “That’s because our curation and innovation departments only approve plant-based proteins which check-off the “100% Meaty” checkbox! Of course we are sure that vegetarians, flexitarians, pescetarians and every kind of “arians” will love all our products too, but our passion and mission is to give meat lovers the option to enjoy the big meaty flavours and succulent textures they adore, and be good to the planet at the same time.”
Adding digital into the mix
Asia’s first plant-based butcher has sought to become a digital resource for anyone wanting to embrace vegan food. Love Handle has created a platform that allows consumers and chefs to come together to find the best ways to cook plant-based meats, alongside ordering them. The company hopes that this will create natural growth and acceptance for the sector, resulting in significant environmental benefits.
Accessibility is what drives Love Handle. The digital side of the business is designed to let fellow plant-based investigators interact. The physical shop is a gateway to more variety of meat options. Both create a backdrop for confident kitchen experimentation through knowledge sharing and education, which in turn, will lead to a bigger uptick in animal meat avoidance.
A friendly neighborhood butcher’s shop
Addis Tan, co-founder and executive chef, describes the store as akin to regular community butcher shops, stating that people come for meat for dinner, but stay for interaction. “It’s not just a physical community space, but a digital one too: folks can always jump on our digital platform to order, access video recipes or connect with other members of the plant-based community,” he told The Peak. “While we would love to welcome you down at our butcher shop and give you a taste of whatever is cooking, we also want to make it easy for you to connect with us through whichever channel you prefer to match your busy lifestyle and make delicious home-cooked plant-based meal a reality for anyone who wants it.
The rise of plant-based butchers
While Love Handle represents a first for Asia, elsewhere, plant-based butchers are already turning heads. Most recently, just earlier this month, French supermarket giant Carrefour announced it had opened its first vegan butcher counter. Products sold come from Dutch brand The Vegetarian Butcher, owned by Unilever. Plant-based meats are merchandised just like regular cuts of meat.
World Vegan Day 2020 saw Rudy’s Vegan Butcher throw open its London doors to the public. A traditional style location, complete with display fridges and meat offered by weight, the space was an instant hit, selling out in one day. The location was opened following Rudy’s Vegan Diner’s success in Camden. It was the first of its kind the U.K. capital.
Lead photo by Love Handle.