Abhay Rangan, 21, founder and CEO of Veganarke, said the upcoming new products will include plant-based cheese, butter and ghee.
“We plan to become the largest (vegan) plant-player in the country in the next five years,” he said.
Currently, Veganarke’s main vegan products under its Goodmylk brand are peanut milk (60-220 rupees), coconut milk (50-150 rupees, but clearing stock) and a peanut curd (80 rupees), said to be the world’s only shelf-stable vegan yoghurt or curd.
All the ingredients are sourced locally, and Abhay says even their machinery was manufactured in India.
David against Goliaths
Abhay said that one of Veganarke’s strengths was the shelf life of its products.
He said, unopened, the vegan dairy products can last for more than three months on the shelf without refrigeration.
“It's a combination of temperature, pressure and time during processing that helps our products remain shelf-stable. We don't add any ingredients to increase shelf life,” said Abhay.
He said this enables them to ship their vegan dairy products “all over the country”, while their competitors are limited to upscale retail stores in urban areas.
Furthermore, he said all the major vegan retail players in India offer only plant-based milk. Veganarke not only offers vegan nut milk and curd/yoghurt, but its range will soon be expanded.
“Our range will be unparalleled,” said Abhay.
Veganarke has since dropped almond milk, its original product, from its product line. This is related to the issue of almond milk requiring a lot of water to produce.
“Almonds are water intensive and not locally produced in large enough quantities. As a business that aims to do good, manufacturing the best products for all stakeholders — the customer, the environment, and so on — is important,” said Abhay.
Abhay and his mother used to manufacture their vegan food products from home for a long time.
“When we moved to a proper manufacturing facility, commercialising and standardising our product took a few months,” he said.
They source ingredients locally, develop their recipes in their own home kitchen, and then standardise them in their factory in Chennai.
Currently, Veganarke’s daily production capacity is about two tonnes.
Further business growth
Abhay said, as the company’s primary model is to ship its products to consumers' doorsteps, based on subscription, it can ship to “almost every part of the country”.
"We're only limited by the capabilities of our logistics partners," he said.
"We use existing surface-shipping companies to move our product. They cover a wide-range of pin codes in India, and we can ship to most places."
Veganarke’s products are not in retail (stores) at the moment, but Abhay said they plan to have them in stores within about two years. Their main sales channel is online.
The company’s main aim is to first meet manufacturing capacity and targets by the end of this fiscal year, and then to start a retail presence.
“We're excited about being able to offer a wide range of products and make them affordable and accessible to everyone in the country,” said Abhay.
Abhay believes that the dietary patterns and trends of Indian consumers today will be a boon to their business. He said most consumers are switching from dairy to “better” products.
“While there is definitely a push towards organic and A2 milk, we're placing our bets on plant-based dairy as we find that it's the inevitable future of food,” said Abhay.
“Another trend is the move towards clean label products. We're cognisant of these trends and are incorporating them in our product development efforts.”
How it began
Eight years ago, Abhay’s parents turned vegan on their wedding anniversary. Abhay soon followed suit, six months later.
At 16, he then founded the non-profit Society for Animal Rights and Veganism (SARV), which has so far organised more than 250 campaigns in over 10 cities in India.
“When I was an animal rights activist, I started a non-profit for animal rights activism that became active in more than 10 Indian cities. It was then I came across people who told me that vegan alternatives were expensive,” he said.
“I looked around and realised it was true. Veganarke was born out of the desire to make plant-based food affordable and accessible in India.”
Abhay conceptualised Veganarke three years ago, when he was 18.
“Affordability and accessibility drive me,” said Abhay.
“They're so paramount in making a consumer movement happen!”
Abhay is a Stanford Innovation Fellow and a TedX Speaker, and has addressed audiences about animal rights and plant based food in more than 10 cities.