• abillion: “65% of Our Members Are Omnivores or Flexitarians – We Are Excited to Be the Platform That Guides Them in This Journey”



    Sustainability platform abillion today announces the launch of Save Vegan Restaurants fund with the commitment of donating up to $1 million to support vegan restaurants in the USA. The #SaveVeganRestaurants campaign launched April 1st in partnership with We Are Impactors, a crowd-sourced discovery platform for impactful vegan, environmental, and social justice videos, and nonprofit Million Dollar Vegan.

    Vikas Garg, Founder and CEO of abillion, set out in 2017 with the goal of helping a billion people join the plant-based movement by 2030 and of donating US$1 billion dollars to support animal welfare and education causes. In 2019, the organisation secured the largest seed funding for a social impact startup in Singapore. 
     
    Vikas took the time to speak with vegconomist about the fast growth of this platform and share his insights about plant-based industry and his thoughts on its future.
     
    For any of our readers who may be unaware, could you explain what abillion does and who it is for? 
    abillion is an internet-based ecosystem for the sustainability movement. We’re building an online community of people around the world who want to live more sustainably. Through our app, community members can recommend and review vegan dishes at restaurants, and vegan, cruelty-free and sustainable consumer products, ranging from food to beauty to fashion. Peer to peer recommendations are the most valuable and most honest kind of publicity for brands. That is helping to make abillion the first choice for many people both to promote or find vegan and sustainable dining and shopping choices.
     
    We have also built in a unique giving element to our platform. Every time a member posts a review, we credit them $1 that they can donate, through the app, to charity and cause partners that we work with. Members can donate as soon as they make their first review or they can accumulate funds in order to make larger donations. We believe this philanthropic component helps make compassion and making impact habitual.
     
    Dish Review abillion
    ©abillion
    Could you tell us the mission and vision of abillion?
    Our mission is to build a global community that catalyzes millions of people and businesses to do what’s right for their body, the animals, and the planet. Our brand name refers to our vision of a billion people making sustainable, ethical and vegan consumer choices on a daily basis. We’re equally committed to giving back to causes that make a real impact. Our goal in 2021 is to donate $1 million to organizations that are on the frontlines of animal welfare, activism, world hunger, literacy and empowering women and minorities. We hope in years to come that our model inspires many other companies to rethink how they grow and how they allocate resources.
     
    What is the abillion data research platform and how did the idea come about?
    We hold the world’s most valuable and unique consumer data set for sustainability. As more members post reviews, our dataset continues to grow exponentially. We want to leverage this proprietary dataset to help investors, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers identify market gaps and growth opportunities in the socially responsible consumption wave. We launched our data team’s website, data.abillion.com, in August last year to showcase our data-rich research on topics ranging from plant-based meat to dairy alternatives. The data team is growing and we are constantly adding new tools and diving deeper into areas of interest. One very useful and noteworthy recent addition is an interactive dashboard to track the performance of the most popular plant-based meat brands on our platform.
     
    You’ve recently added some new partners to the platform, who are they? 
    That’s right! We’re proud to add Animal Save Movement, Share the Meal, Room to Read, and One Tree Planted to our partner list. This means that our members can directly support animal vigils, plant trees, share meals, and sponsor books for communities in need with every review posted on our app. When we first launched, we focused on onboarding animal sanctuaries into our giving ecosystem. And while we will always support such organisations, we also want to include other causes, conscious that as our membership grows, some members will prioritise other causes.
    Food Landscape abillion
    ©abillion
    Of course, we will always only work with organisations that are deeply connected to our mission and go beyond their own walls in educating and raising awareness in their communities. The bottom line is, we would love to support any organization that is aligned with our mission, that we believe will benefit from our support, and that we believe creates real impact for their beneficiaries.
     
    What size team do you have at abillion and has the pandemic caused much disruption to your working environment? 
    We are a small but rapidly growing company. I started this organization organically, working with passionate young engineers and have been blessed to have attracted a great group of incredible compassionate and driven colleagues. We are launching a Series A funding round in Q2 this year, and part of the capital will go towards building capabilities and excellence. We have done some amazing things already but with more experienced talent, we can scale to even greater heights. 
     
    The pandemic created a few hiccups, but with systems like Slack, Google Meet, Notion and other workflow apps, we were able to keep working efficiently and proactively. I think for me, the biggest challenge in working from home (which was the biggest internal shift) was to try and keep up the team morale and ensure personal connections between colleagues continued to be forged. When you have a small team, building culture and ensuring your people are motivated are as important as any other tasks.  
    Vikas Garg, abillionveg
    Vikas Garg, abillion
    Tell us about the abillion awards program and how they’ve been received by businesses and consumers.
    We launched Awards last year and the response has been great. I think recipients, be they cities, brands or restaurants appreciate that our awards are based on real consumer data and preferences. We’re not telling the public that something is number one based on the opinions of a small panel of celebrity judges; we’re awarding someone a first place award based on thousands of data points based on real member feedback. This gives our awards a level of credibility and data integrity that sets us apart. 
     
    We recently published our list of Singapore’s top 50 vegan dishes. I noticed that even before we send out the physical certificates and door decals, some of the award-winning restaurants had printed out their own versions and had proudly displayed their wins in their windows. I was very touched that these restaurateurs take such pride in our awards.
     
    What interesting changes have you seen in the Asian market since your company was founded?
    Two things that have been very encouraging has been the growth of plant-based and cruelty-free products as well as the growth in consumers willing to look at plant-based options on a more than occasional basis. What is exciting for us is that today, 65% of our members are omnivores or flexitarians. And while we will always serve our vegan customers first and foremost, it is exciting to see more non-vegan or vegetarian consumers show a strong interest in making impactful and plant-based consumer choices. And we are excited to be the platform that guides them in this journey. 
    Explore abillion
    ©abillion
     
    Along with this growing demand, the supply side has also been growing. It is encouraging to witness the growth of Asian plant-based and sustainable products as well the wider availability of similar Western products in our region. In a study conducted by our data team, we found that plant-based manufacturers of products such as plant-based ice cream have found great success when creating flavours to local palates. I also just read a report on a Japanese manufacturer creating plant-based beef designed specifically for yakiniku. It is exciting to see the growth of market-specific products for Asian palates and cooking styles.
     
    What sets Singapore out as such a hub of innovation and plant-based developments?
    Singapore is fortunate to have a government supportive of innovation as well as a business environment that has made it an ideal base for family offices, private equity firms, VCs, and other financial institutions. The $306 billion government-backed investment fund, Temasek, is very bullish on alternative proteins and this has helped shine a spotlight on the sector. Investors here are very aware of the potential ramifications of backing a game-changing food product. 
     
    Bear in mind also that Singapore, as a nation, lacks natural resources, so food security is something that the nation’s decision-makers have always clearly considered and are still worried about. But now, there are many private sector opportunities that are offering some very interesting solutions that a country like Singapore would be keen to see come to fruition. 
     
    Singapore is also, while tiny, a highly-developed, modern country that is able to attract world-class talent. This makes it an attractive base for entrepreneurs who don’t even have to think twice about moving their or their colleagues’ families here. The Economic Development Board, whose mission is to market Singapore to foreigners as an ideal place to work and live, has done an exceptional job of wooing a wide range of industries, and helping companies to forge connections both within the public and private sectors. 
     
    Product Review abillion
    ©abillion
    What trends do you foresee in the global plant-based landscape?
    Our data team has done some fantastic work looking at the consumer landscape in this report: https://www.data.abillion.com/post/the-era-of-the-conscious-consumer.
     
    One thing that we found very noteworthy is that plant-based consumers care just as much about the packaging of their products as they do what’s inside them. This puts pressure on brands to think sustainably about more than just their core products but how they present, market and eventually distribute them.
     

    Another, which I am sure you have seen, is the increasing affordability of plant-based products. This is very important because there has been, for a long time, in many countries the notion that buying organic products or switching to a plant-based lifestyle is expensive. If we, and the manufacturers in this sector, mean to really change the world’s consumption patterns, the vast majority of the population must be able to access and afford these products.

    In addition to the above, there is undeniably a substantial amount of capital funding being poured into the alternative protein sector. According to The Good Food Institute, $3.1 billion was invested into alternative protein producers in 2020; of that $2.1 into plant-based producers. This is already spurring a huge growth in development, which will lead to a high volume of new, and hopefully delicious, products entering the market within the next few years. 
     
    What does 2021 have in store for your company?  
    We grew five times across our key metrics last year and had four record quarters and grew our team from 8 to 26. This year we’re looking to double that and it’s going to be a big year for further establishing the company and movement around the world. I’m excited to be working on further expanding our mission and creating even more impact for animals, humans, and the planet. In the next five years, we want to help thousands of entrepreneurs and millions of people connect and support each other in growing the movement.
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