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Bringing Vegan Awesomeness to Windsor Essex!

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

A Windsor entrepreneur is on a mission to diversify vegan food offerings for local consumers.

The Vegan Gardiners is a vegan food provider specializing in cheeses, charcuterie sausage, crackers and other goodies. Amy Gardiner Upton and husband Ryan stumbled across this business rather unexpectedly in 2018.

“I began creating vegan cheese at home as we wanted to pursue a more plant-based diet and environmentally conscious lifestyle. At that time there were very few palatable vegan cheeses on the market. After perfecting my process and sampling to friends, I was encouraged to try and sell it locally as they felt it was better than most products on the market.” 

Fast-forward to today, and their success is palpable. Their products are currently sold at six different retail locations, available through personal order, and are present in local markets and pop-up events. The Vegan Gardiners have collaborated with several other local businesses, and their products are featured in two Windsor restaurants. They have also been fortunate enough to plan and co-host two ticketed events in collaboration with a local winery and brewery.

Their growing success is not without its challenges. “I feel the largest challenge we face is the stigma attached to dairy-free cheeses,” said Gardiner Upton. “Many people either have poor previous experiences with more commercialized products, or if they are not vegan, do not feel our product is relevant to them.”

Gardiner Upton works hard to overcome this by educating customers and allowing them to sample products. 

Gardiner Upton’s favourite part of this venture is the range in clientele they have. “We have customers who are vegan and vegetarian, which we hoped for and expected, but we have also experienced an overwhelming response from the lactose intolerant and health conscious communities,” said Gardiner Upton, adding, “Being able to offer a product they enjoy and are proud to support is beyond rewarding, and so is the enthusiasm we are so often greeted with.” 

Beyond offering plant-based options, The Vegan Gardiners want to help contribute to a more environmentally conscious community and reduce animal product use. “Knowing our products are plant-based and use biodegradable packaging is something we are very proud of, and truly hope makes an impact,” stated Gardiner Upton. 

The Vegan Gardiner is continuing to expand and grow in the Windsor-Essex region. “We know [starting a business] is not the conventional means of securing our finances and future, but we are willing to take a risk to try and craft a lifestyle we love with the ability to create things we can be proud of and share.”

Gardiner Upton is a WindsorEssex Small Business Centre client and is currently taking part in the Starter Company Plus grant program. Gardiner Upton remarked, “Participating in the week-long small business course was a great help in writing our business plan, which is currently being reviewed. It also gave us greater insight into to knowing our market audience, using tools effectively and improving our accounting system.”

Visit or follow them on Facebook at @thevegangardiners to see all the fabulous savouries and sweets they have to offer.

Amy Gardiner Upton is a client of the WindsorEssex Small Business Centre and received support and mentorship through our programs. You, too, can receive support in launching or expanding your small business. Contact the WindsorEssex Small Business Centre for more information.