Being born to Nigerian parents and having had the opportunity to live a substantial part of his life in Nigeria, being vegan was never a thought. This was mainly due to the lifestyle and status attached to a meat-heavy diet. Still, after watching a few documentaries during the pandemic and losing his dad to a cardiovascular disease, Olaoluwa was left with no choice but to reinvent what protein meant for Africans.
He had double motivation – for the planet in general, and for his continent specifically. “In Africa, we are frontline to many of the problems we face as a human race: poor health, poor nutrition, climate change, sustainability (food, raw materials), and waste, to name a few,” Olaoluwa explains. Food is a big part of African culture and it plays a major role in every family and community. A meal is considered incomplete without “protein”, aka meat. As the COVID pandemic further highlighted the problems his nation (with 286 million people) and continent face, Olaoluwa started exploring plant-based types of proteins – 4 in 5 deaths every year are linked to cardiovascular diseases, and Nigeria is 1 of 10 most vulnerable countries to climate change. Furthermore, the price of food increases by 20% every month.
“Losing my dad to a cardiovascular disease through my journey cemented my desire to provide healthier protein alternatives to the nation and the world,” he continues. Today, Casa Vegan uses locally sourced, grown, and up-cycled ingredients to create a 100% natural, delicious, and nutritional plant-based alternative protein. Based in Lagos, they aim to be the go-to African manufacturer for all plant-based protein alternatives.
Developing a prototype that people thought was amazing in terms of taste and texture was certainly a milestone. Getting NAFDAC’s approval was certainly a big leap. “In Nigeria, getting approved normally takes 2–5 years, and we have set a new precedent and standard for all plant-based products that come after us,” the Casa Vegan founder believes. Since then, they’ve won prizes and took part in the ProVeg Incubator Cohort 2022. “Being selected amongst a list of amazing startups around the world meant we were doing something right! It was an experience and opportunity that most startups dream about, and we got to be part of it.” Currently, Casa Vegan is at a crucial go-to market phase where they want to appeal to the wider market.
How does he manage fast-paced growth, personally? “A conscious habit I have learned and practiced is to always keep a calm head – ensuring I don’t get too excited or carried away through the highs and demotivated by the lows,” he shares. Staying active, running, and performing his 5 daily prayers helps him stay grounded at all times.
“One of the reasons I became and stayed vegan is the excitement I get with every meal, trying new flavors, ingredients, and combinations. So… every vegan meal is my favorite.”
“Success in everything I do. I can be very mission-oriented and sometimes competitive, so being able to achieve those goals I set is very rewarding.“
“The ability to read people’s minds and know what they are thinking would be nice! That would make life and a lot of scenarios easier.”
“I’d play football for Arsenal, or even basketball or American football professionally. Definitely something that requires a lot of discipline, pressure, and creativity.“
“…my dad! He was very hardworking, caring, and loving. He was also very driven from the business and financial perspective; he always had ideas and was never scared to take a risk. Being able to discuss my dreams and plans with him before he died and now seeing it come to life is incredible. He is always in my heart.”