Messages From Vegan Business Leaders on World Vegan Day, Part 3

In this third and final installment of our World Vegan Day special, we feature valuable insights from and words of solidarity from: CEO of The Vegetarian Butcher, Hugo Verkuil; Smith Taweelerdniti; founder of Plantform and Boldy Foods, Allen Zelden; founder of Fenn Foods, Alejandro Cancino; CEO of Libre Foods, Alan Iván Ramos; and CEO of Impact Food, Kelly Pan.

These messages come to us from each corner of the planet, with the founders located in Thailand; Australia; The Netherlands; Catalonia, Spain; and San Francisco, California. We asked: as we approach the end of what has been a turbulent year for many in the business, what is your message for the plant-based industry as we look ahead to 2024?

Hugo Verkuil, The Vegetarian Butcher: “Craftmanship”

The biggest Food Revolution of all time is carried by people. A growing community of pioneers like The Vegetarian Butcher, together with the rebels and lovers of the new meat who make this revolution happen every day, will happily join this sustainable journey. As a brand, we believe plant-based meat is more than a trend, and growth is still forecast over the long term.

We have no doubt that there will always be a space for high-quality products, even within a developing market. Instead of focusing our communication on the problem – depletion of the environment, animal suffering, health risks – we believe that to convince the real meat lover, taste and butcher’s craftmanship should be central in everything that we do.

Hugo Verkuil, CEO of The Vegetarian Butcher
Hugo Verkuil, CEO, The Vegetarian Butcher, image supplied

Our newly opened plant-based butchery is a true example of this approach: offering a solution that, besides for the rational considerations, is simply tasty and effortless. Because we believe we should not have to sacrifice.

“Plant-based is here to stay so let’s help facilitate the need”

As all the reasons to switch towards more plant-based food remain relevant, so does the potential to attract new buyers to the shelves. Plant-based is here to stay so let’s help facilitate the need, so more people can easily make the switch in the long term. Together we can cater to a new generation of meat lovers.

Kelly Pan, Impact Food: “Resilience”

As we celebrate WVD and navigate the challenges of the past year, I encourage the plant-based industry to glean resilience from adversity. The market turbulence has underscored the importance of agility and creativity. Amid the adversity, there’s an opportunity for growth by staying agile, embracing innovation, and adapting to evolving consumer preferences.

Impact Food Co-founders
Stephanie Claudino Daffara and Kelly Pan ©Impact Food

With these new learnings, the industry can foster collaboration, diversify product offerings, and fortify supply chains while prioritizing ethical practices to ensure a robust and compassionate plant-based future.

As we look ahead to 2024, let’s commit to not just meeting but exceeding quality standards, championing environmental responsibility, and amplifying the collective impact of the plant-based movement. Together, we can sow the seeds for a more sustainable, compassionate, and thriving future. Happy World Vegan Day!

Alejandro Cancino, Fenn Foods: “Value”

My message for 2024 is: focus on quality, value for money, and think on the mainstream consumers. What can we learn from? In my opinion, this industry needs to become “sustainable” in the commercial sense, we have to find a path to profitability, build real business, and listen to consumers more.

To grow, we should offer products that are unnoticeably different from real meat, with all the health, social, and environmental benefits. At a price parity and eventually even more economical.

Alejandro Fenn Foods
©Fenn Foods

Smith Taweelerdniti, Let’s Plant Meat: “Participation”

Just last week, the whole country of Thailand celebrated “Je”- the vegetarian festival where restaurants, and supermarkets suddenly offer a long range of vegan options to anyone who wishes to participate. Thai people believed in making merit by not harming animals through nine days of food choice.

What if we do this more often and in more countries in the world? For whichever reason you choose to have more plants than animals, we can all pitch in and help the beloved planet of ours. Happy World Vegan Day!

Let's Plant Meat
© Let’s Plant Meat

Allen Zelden, Boldy Foods: “Energy”

Our category is now at a crucial tipping point – now is the time to take our energy, influence and dollars to the next level. Green is now mainstream and regardless of any “momentary” market setbacks, the proliferation of plant-based foods across menus and grocery aisles is still very much in its infancy.

But we need to move different if we want different.

And to me, that starts by redirecting some of the investment in our category away from measuring and managing returns on investment, to measuring and managing our impact on consumers. Therefore, I believe the only problem we need to invest in solving right now is awareness. IE How are we getting these foods into the mouths of people that would never normally put them in their shopping carts or trolleys?

allen zelden's selfie
© Allen Zelden

As someone who spent more than ten years building/buying digital businesses in my former life, I’m often frustrated to see our industry “celebrate” record-breaking investment news as the primary measure of success.

I was there at the beginning of the global e-commerce phenomenon and saw the ripple effects of many a bust, led mostly by those “record-breakers” where the disparity between capital invested and revenue was far too wide.

There are obviously many things our industry can learn from the dotcom era but the biggest one I relay to founders – as they march towards the ‘traditional path’ of growth (IE find product/market fit -> raise capital -> scale -> raise capital -> scale -> etc) – is that money is an enabler…

But money is also ENERGY, hence now – more than ever – we need to be much more careful with HOW we spend it and WHO we exchange it with.

Libre Foods
©Libre Foods

Alan Iván Ramos, Libre Foods: “Keep going”

In short: keep going. We can’t forget that our industry is almost only ten years old. And we’ve had to build it all from scratch— product development, supply chains, enabling technologies, go-to-market, to name a few.

As our industry matures, I see an opportunity to focus on what we do best, rather than needing or feeling like we need to “do it all.” For this, an open mind, a narrowed focus, and a long view on transformational impact are the keys to success.

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