It’s estimated that the global vegan food market will reach $24.3 billion by 2026.
And that’s just food, that statistic doesn’t include the growing demand for vegan cosmetics, clothing, home services, and so much more.
If you’re considering starting a vegan business to cash in on this changing consumer behavior, your not alone. The number of new vegan businesses is rapidly increasing every year.
But how should you approach starting a vegan business? Simply being a vegan company or having labeling that says your vegan isn’t enough anymore. Here’s our guide to starting an ethical, vegan business.
1. Understand That Vegan is a Lifestyle, Not a Product or Service
Being vegan doesn’t stop at your plate. Vegans think about the treatment of animals and the care of the environment in every facet of life. Understanding that being vegan is a lifestyle and overlooking the details is something that big corporations fail to do when they are rebranding with a greenwashing campaign.
A company that is truly vegan, and wants to be viewed as one, needs to withhold its values in every aspect of business.
For example, many international beauty companies are starting to label themselves as cruelty-free, because they no longer test on animals in American or the U.K. However, China still requires animal testing on all personal care goods to be sold in their country.
Companies that are truly vegan, don’t sell their products in China, because their values of veganism are the top priority for their business. Whereas companies like CoverGirl, who are only rebranding to adapt to changing consumer behaviors, still sell their products in China because they don’t actually have vegan values.
2. Know Which Type of Vegans Your Serving
The argument can be made that companies like CoverGirl aren’t actually marketing their products to “real vegans.” That they are actually catering to a more fashionably vegan, or vegan-curious customer base, who wants to feel better about their shopping behaviors but doesn’t actually uphold vegan values.
This concept is especially true for the faux-meat Impossible burger hysteria that’s happening. Hardcore vegans wouldn’t eat at places like Burger King or Del Taco no matter what type of vegan options they provided. That’s because these businesses still participate in the factory farming industry to supply the rest of the items on their menu.
But it can be said that fast-food chains, like cosmetics companies, have cut their losses with reaching real vegans anyways. As a new vegan business, it’s important to make that distinction internally.
Knowing which type of vegan your marketing to will drastically change your growth strategy. If you’re a vegan restaurant that’s catering to real vegans and conscious consumers, it will be important for you to not only provide vegan foods but to source all of your foods ethically.
3. Consider Specializing, At Least At First
The term vegan on any product or service can be polarizing for businesses. Attaching yourself to the stigma of “being vegan” means that as a business, you’re going to need to prove your value even more.
Many vegan businesses try to do too much too soon and end up with an inventory of diverse but mediocre vegan offerings. Start small, do one thing and do it the best. There is no demand for another half baked vegan anything on the market.
Starting a new business is exciting and overwhelming, and that often leads entrepreneurs to make hasty decisions. Understand that when you start a business, you are committing to a long game.
While you might feel pressure to offer more services or products as a way to stay competitive if what your offering doesn’t satisfy your customer’s needs, it’s not worth it.
Value quality, although it might take longer for your business to go mainstream, there is nothing more valuable to a business than happy, loyal customers who spread the word.
Once you get a grasp on how to run your business, and have a more in-depth understanding of your market and the product or service your offering, then scale.
4. Be a Vegan Business That Hires Vegans
Employing staff with vegan values is an important part of creating a vegan brand.
Your employees can be your greatest advocates, hiring vegans ensures that your staff will be well-informed and passionate about the product or service your selling.
A staff that embodies the look and feel of the lifestyle your business wants to portray will inspire customers and help create an engaged community that people want to be part of.
Vegan employees will also help spread the word about your business, directly to your target market. Hiring vegans creates another dimension of brand consistency and will further show your commitment to your values.
But how do you attract a vegan staff? Starting with a few vegans should help create a chain reaction in hires. When attracting new talent, it’s vital to practice what you preach about your brand’s ethics and values.
If the voice of your brand is peaceful and positive, but a recruiter is short and snappy with a potential hire, it’s likely that those who experience your business behind-the-scenes will grow to distrust the authenticity of your brand.
Get down to the employee’s level. Participate in activism and other important events within the vegan community.
5. Be Transparent
Transparency has become vital for any business that wants to build a loyal and engaged following. Today’s consumer is smart and knows when they are being lied to or deceived.
Establish the business practices that you can be transparent about. Adhere to labor laws and treat your employees like a family. Ensure that all of the vendors your working with are ethical companies. Don’t allow any unchecked boxes to slip through the cracks.
Think about every step in your supply chain. Where does your packaging come from? Is it sustainable? What about the automobiles your company relies on?
Ask yourself is the current state of your supply chain is something you’d want to share with others. If your answer was no, start making changes.
Can your day-to-day business practices be improved to be more vegan-friendly? What types of materials and textiles are being used in office furniture?
Is the cleaning service your office uses sustainable? Is there a better option? Can you replace old lighting? Or go paperless? Again, consider how your target market would judge your business if they went through all of your day-to-day operations.
6. Affiliate Yourself with the Right Groups and Organizations
Affiliating your vegan business with the right communities can play a significant role in how your business is perceived right from the beginning.
When you first start your business, consider running a handful of charity or philanthropic campaigns that donate proceeds to influential vegan organizations. It’s important to have a mix of mainstream recognitions and community recognitions for your business.
Look into industry and local sustainability and ethical certifications for your business. Get accreditations and acknowledgements that build your authority as an industry-leading vegan business.
Reach out to authoritative bloggers to write about your business and consider having your founding members guest post for business and vegan media sites.
Get public-facing staff memberships to vegan organizations, and consistently attend conferences, workshops, and other networking events.
Create a strategic plan to engage with respected vegan influencers across your social media networks. Engage with influencer content and start meaningful conversations with members of the vegan community.
There Will Never Be a Substitute for Hard Work
Just because being vegan is trending, doesn’t mean creating a vegan business will be easy. Just like starting any business, a deep level of commitment and work ethic re required for success.
There are likely many vegan business owners out there who are just in it for the money. But it makes succeeding so much more impactful when your business aligns with your values and serves a greater purpose.
Before starting a vegan business, ask yourself why? If your answer is only to make a profit, there are dozens of other promising types of businesses you can invest your time, money and energy into.
If there’s anything you need to know about this industry, it’s the uncanny ability to spot a fake.
Have more questions about business, marketing, and lifestyle? We’re here to help! Our site is packed with consumer and buyer resources on everything from how to stay compliant as a business, to how to shop. Check out our trending posts on the right sidebar!