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Restaurant owners’ son with sideline as extra says founding his sauce start-up a wok in park thanks to Innovation Factory
Vincent Tsang, who has developed a range of gluten-free, vegan-friendly sauces
Innovation Factory Belfast's innovation manager Stephen Ellis and Vincent Tsang
Vincent Tsang played Jackie Chan's body double in the 2017 film The Foreigner, which also starred Pierce Brosnan
Aine Toner Twitter Email
A Northern Ireland entrepreneur who played Jackie Chan’s body double has created two Chinese bottled sauces that are made with 100% natural ingredients.
Vincent Tsang developed his gluten-free and vegan-friendly Sweet Chilli and Sweet & Sour sauces for the growing market of those looking for healthy alternatives to favoured foods.
The Belfast man received support from the city’s Innovation Factory and Invest NI and plans to grow sales through the UK and Ireland.
“I had a bad dose of eczema from a very young age,” says Vincent (36).
“I saw many doctors here and in Hong Kong, but it was only a short-term fix. The medication would work until your body got used to it.
“But what I found consistently that worked was having a healthy, controlled diet. I’d so many allergies — I couldn’t eat mango, pineapple, seafood — and spice would trigger it.
“It wouldn’t happen immediately; I would enjoy the foods I shouldn’t be eating during the day and then at night, when I was sleeping, I’d be scratching, only to wake up with cuts all over my hands, for example.”
While healthy eating helped Vincent control his condition, a conversation with a customer in his parents’ Chinese restaurant prompted him to start his new enterprise.
“I was asking them: ‘Where have you been?’ A direct quote from them was: ‘I’m just trying to be good.’
“It all depends on what goes into the Chinese food; it’s not all unhealthy. Then I thought: ‘Let’s show how Chinese food can be healthy.’
“I developed a sweet chilli sauce which was gluten-free, vegan- friendly, 100% natural ingredients and agave. I tried it in the restaurant and it went well.
“Then I decided to make a sweet and sour version, and then during lockdown I bottled it and started trading in the third lockdown of 2020.”
Having been involved in the family business from childhood — “When I was wee, I was drying things, going in at lunchtime to help, or chopping veg” — he found starting his new career path quite smooth.
“I like the business side of things. I studied finance at Queen’s University and that also helped in terms of keeping an eye on cost, on budgeting, when it came to setting up the business.
“Both parents are health conscious, so I knew which ingredients were good and not good. When it came to developing recipes, they stemmed from my parents’ recipes in the restaurant in Moira and I tweaked them to meet my needs.”
He participated in Belfast City Council’s Kickstart Programme, which led to his introduction to mentor Stephen Ellis. With Stephen’s help, he successfully applied for an Innovation Voucher from Invest NI to help develop his business idea and worked with CAFRE at Greenmount to ensure the sauces met all the food safety guidelines and had a shelf life of 18 months.
Tsang Sauce is now stocked in a number of independent food stores in Northern Ireland, while Vincent continues to develop his sales strategy.
The most difficult part, he says, was finding a balance between making sure the sauces tasted great while maintaining their healthiness.
“It’s very easy to put loads of sugar in the sweet chilli, but I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to make sure it was as healthy as possible. I was trying to reduce the sugar where I could while maintaining the flavour.”
Innovation Factory innovation manager Stephen Ellis said he was sure that Vincent’s new products will prove to be a big success for the public looking for healthy versions of their favourite meals.
“Vincent’s story is a great example of the many fantastic business ideas coming out of Northern Ireland,” Stephen says.
“It is so rewarding for us at Innovation Factory to play a role in supporting such exciting projects and encouraging collaboration among a community of new entrepreneurs.”
Vincent has funding to produce a new range of sauces and is working on developing lower-calorie versions of many people’s favourites.
“I’ve also got an idea for Dragons’ Den… People have told me they want other flavours, so I’ll be able to home in on my parents’ recipes,” Vincent says.
Another of his passions, however, is acting, with romance and action being his preferred genres. Vincent is registered with extras agency The Extras Dept, with an opportunity arising to play Jackie Chan’s body double in 2017 film The Foreigner.
“The role was to be his driving double. They chose me because I was the closest in height to him. You’ll see the back of my head and my arms in the scenes.
“It was filmed in Larne Harbour, Belfast City Hall and Tollymore Forest Park. In one scene I had to make a sharp turn without hitting the brakes and managed to do it. The director said we had one chance before the light faded. It was quite a bit of pressure — a bit like starting your own business.”
Vincent’s website, www.tsangsauce.com, provides healthy recipes using his sauces. For more information on Innovation Factory, visit www.innovationfactoryni.com
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Healthy condiments with a kick… courtesy of Jackie Chan body double Vincent – Belfast Telegraph
October 6, 2022