According to figures from April 2018, more than 3.5 million people in the UK are now vegan – a number that continues to grow. The trend towards more conscious consumerism cannot be ignored, with 75% of ‘green’ Millennials willing to spend more on sustainable products.
In light of this, here are 7 vegan businesses and entrepreneurs I’ve spoken to over the last few months who are making their mark and embracing a movement founded on health, compassion and protecting the natural world. Go team herbivore!
Matter Wholefoods is a local ‘clean food’ store and veg box delivery service found in Bristol’s Greenbank. But beyond that, it’s become an organic movement all of its own. Its friendly and experimental plant-based takeaway in Fishponds is a favourite among Bristol vegans. I spoke to founder Jon Luke about why he started the business and what’s next:
“Matter was set up to help provide infrastructure to a community with limited access to organic and wholesome foods. The wider aim is to eventually make these foods accessible to all who seek it. To us, accessibility is not just being able to walk into a shop and pick things up – they also need to be affordable.
Through close working relationships with farms and importers at one end, and schools, restaurants, shops, our veg box scheme and shop customers at the other, we’ve discovered a model that’s self-funding, paying wages, and giving farmers what they need to sustain their businesses. All while providing customers with prices much lower than anywhere else selling organic. What’s not to like?
We’re expanding into new areas all the time. So far there’s Matter Wholefoods, Veg Boxes, Fast Foods, Studio Kitchen, Kombucha, CBD, Vegan Mayo and Vegan Meats. Next we’re planning a vegan deli.
If we make it to be world renowned then amazing, but even if we folded in the next six months, we would still see it as a success because of all the people’s lives that have been touched and influenced by the Matter movement.”
The Butterless Bakery
Vegan cake artist Kimberley Hanafin launched her business The Butterless Bakery in February 2018, all the while working part-time and looking after her young daughter. She’s been a hobbyist baker for nearly 10 years, and is mostly self-taught. When the time came to start up her own business, she wanted to do things differently, in line with the plant-based diet she adopted for health and environmental reasons.
“I met another baker and wondered why I couldn’t do something like that – so I did! I have a background in art, which translates nicely to cake design. Previously I’d turned down requests for vegan, non-dairy or egg-free cakes, as I had no experience with that kind of baking. But after some experimentation, I was surprised to find that my cakes were coming out better than anything I’d baked previously.
What’s more, there didn’t seem to be anybody offering bespoke vegan wedding and celebration cakes with that ‘wow’ factor. It seemed crazy not to launch my business as 100% vegan, as I knew there was a large vegan community in the area. I want my customers to be able to choose a vegan cake that looks and tastes as good (or better) than its non-vegan counterparts. Vegan cake is still cake!”
Meet Hannah, founder of Willowknd: a cruelty-free, eco-friendly clothing company for adults, kids and babies.
During her final year at university, Hannah was chosen to front a nationwide campaign with Viva!, a Bristol-based animal welfare charity. After everything she learned from working with Viva!, she decided to start her own vegan-friendly company and actively contribute towards being the change she wanted to see. Her goal was to create a sustainable company with kindness at its core. All Willowknd pieces carry the official Carbon Footprint Reduction label and use only renewable wind power.
“Working with Viva! gave me access to a lot of information about companies with poor environmental and social policies; causing damage to our planet through extensive use of plastics and pesticides, or exploiting their workforces and paying low wages. For me, it was important to set up an ethical business because as a society, I think we are all becoming more aware of climate change and the dangers that come with it.
The correlation between sustainable living and reducing environmental impact was paramount in my decision to launch an ethical clothing business. I wanted to create a business that would help people follow a more sustainable lifestyle. By using clean energy and sourcing hand-dyed materials grown without the use of synthetic agricultural chemicals, we lessen our impact on the environment.
It’s always been important for me, as a business owner, to contribute towards creating a kinder planet. That’s why 10% of all our profits are donated to animal sanctuaries and charities here in the UK. If we can create small ripples of change around us, they will hopefully transform into waves within our surrounding communities.”
Tiriel Lovejoy recently opened Bristol zero waste store Preserve on Gloucester Road after working for years in supermarkets like Sainsburys, Aldi and Iceland. A lifelong vegan, Tiriel handed in his notice after 25 years to found a business offering practical alternatives to single-use plastic products, selling everything from wholefoods to dish soap and shaving kits.
“Back in January, I had a moment where I decided I couldn’t continue working in environments where people aren’t valued or listened to. I remembered hearing about a zero waste shop and started looking into it. The more I talked to people about it, the more exciting it became. I could use my business experience alongside my vegan values to do something positive for myself, my family and the environment.
So I went for it and Preserve opened in June 2018, selling a wide range of packaging-free organic foods, toiletries and household products. We also sell alternatives to single-use plastic, such as eco coffee cups. So far it’s been a great success – in July alone we prevented almost 8,000 items of packaging from being bought and thrown away. The whole experience has been a really positive one, and it feels right to do something good.”
Not a UK business, but one worth including. Yatke, a consumer insights startup based in Belgium, was founded in 2017 by animal rights activist Stijn Scholts, who has been vegan for the last 12 years. Its slogan, No Cow Needed, offers some insight into its mission.
“The demand for vegan products is at an all-time high. In their quest for transparency on the path to purchase, consumers often turn to social media, mobile apps and other digital resources to acquire information about brands and products. As a result, a massive digital footprint is left behind.
Yatke analyses this wealth of information to obtain new insights for plant-based food companies. Using this public data, we help organisations shift to meatless offerings – no cow needed. Our platform collects and interprets data from the worldwide vegan ecosystem, providing aggregated data as a service. Ultimately, we want to create a world where we have delicious, healthy food and amazing products that make us happy without harming the planet.”
James Peacock is a 34-year old self-proclaimed Veganaise addict, based in Bristol. A former science teacher, he set up his company Online VR in January 2017, producing 360° virtual tours that allow viewers to explore businesses online. You can even add interactive elements such as CTA and add to cart buttons.
“Consumers are increasingly aware of the ethical practices of who they buy from and are demanding clarity from producers,” says James. “The more informed consumers are about ethical and sustainable food production, the better our world will be. I think virtual tour technology is a really cool, engaging and transparent way of helping people learn about food production.
The tours allow online audiences to feel as if they are touring the farms, kitchens, factories and suppliers of ethical food producers in person, helping them feel more informed about that product’s story. Through interactive, customized pop-out boxes built into my virtual tours, viewers get to discover and learn about sustainability efforts, certifications such as Fairtrade and organic, and ethical practices that set the company apart in a gamified way.
I also help ethical food companies show off their products on social media and online with engaging spinning GIFs and videos. They look delightful, and if they encourage more people to buy ethical foods, then job’s a good’un.”
My Vegan Vouchers
Last (but not least) we have My Vegan Vouchers, a discounts and savings website founded by passionate vegan and educator Joanne Lauthier. The aim of the website is to increase vegan products and services to the general public worldwide, providing discount vouchers and bargains on a range of vegan goods and services. MVV is a membership website, with 20% of the membership fee donated to animal sanctuaries.
“As a new vegan, I was struggling to find where to eat out, where to buy shoes and clothes, what skincare to buy – the list went on. Being passionate about supporting these vegan businesses, I decided to create a central place where everything could be sourced: an online community of ethically conscious businesses offering exclusive deals for the conscientious consumer and saving animals lives in the process.
It’s really important to me to support the small businesses and encourage shoppers to buy from them rather than big corporations who couldn’t care less about animals and our planet, let alone your health. I envisage a compassionate, vegan world where animal products are rare, costly and shunned and everyone feels like a weight has been taken off their shoulders as they shop ethically.”
These awesome ventures really only scratch the surface of what’s out there, with more and more vegan businesses popping up all the time – particularly here in Bristol. Who else do you think deserves some kudos? Add them in the comments below.