Tapping into the Vegan food chain
Mita Srinivasan
10x Industry

Tapping into the Vegan food chain

Veganuary might be over but the vegan segment continues to grow. SME10x talked to Divyesh Bhatia, Co-Founder at Vegarian, to find out more about how a focused plant-based distribution company in the United Arab Emirates will be tapping into the growing vegan markets around the region and globally, while expanding its product range to represent a wide range of ethically produced vegan food brands.

Vegarian Middle East was formed by MVK Group Investment Firm, who have been investing in plant-based businesses for the past five years. As the only focused plant-based distribution company in the United Arab Emirates, the company’s goal is to remove animals from the food chain while providing people with incredible, high-quality ethical products and game-changing vegan food. Vegarian partners with and support brands who share our passions and our ultimate goal of helping our environment by eating ethically produced vegan foods. Some of its current brands include Mister Free’d (Tortilla Chips), VFC (Vegan Fried Ch*cken), and FreeSoul, a vegan nutritional-supplement brand.

SME10X spoke to Divyesh Bhatia, the Co-Founder at Vegarian who is leading the GCC operations for the company, His role involves sourcing exciting new brands from around the world to bring to the UAE, as well as running the day-to-day operations of the business.

How big is the market for this segment in the Middle East?

Divyesh Bhatia (DB): This (vegan) segment is a $500 million market, growing at an annual rate of 8 percent. However, there is also a dramatic rise in health-conscious consumers concerned by the apparent negative health effects associated with meat, including an increased risk for heart disease and type-2 diabetes. Per capita meat consumption in the UAE is 73 kg per year. This exceeds the World Health Organization’s recommended 18 kg. Given this, we expect the growth of this sector to double over the next 5 years.

Where are the franchise opportunities and how would these work?

DB: Vegarian’s mission is to remove animals from production and work towards a global issue that needs immediate attention. Our mission is to acquire distribution rights for high quality plant-based restaurant concepts from the USA and the UK and bring these to the Middle East. Vegarian is currently in negotiations with 2 new restaurant concepts who are leading unique concepts in their home markets.

In terms of our retail division, we have introduced a list some of the leading plant based concepts from around the world into the Middle East. We started with some of the most revolutionary and highly reputed brands like Mister Free’d (Tortilla Chips), VFC (Vegan Fried Ch*cken), and Only Plant-Based (sauces and condiments). These brands are loved and used by millions of consumers across the world.

What kind of investment is Vegarian putting into this segment?

DB: Alongside contributing to one of the key pillars of Expo 2020 (sustainability), we are looking to be a key driving and educational force for the denizens in the UAE. Our brands can compete with leading food brands, which also fall under the non-vegan category purely based on taste, health, and quality.

We will look to deploy local marketing budgets within some of the larger stores that take our brands and we will constantly be looking to educate the customer on the benefits of working with the carefully selected brands we support.

In addition to this, the founding team behind Vegarian are a consortium of venture capitalists who are looking to deploy £100m of investment into Plant Based businesses across the world over the next 3 years.

How will it work in the ecosystem that already includes leading supermarkets and distribution companies that already include vegan products and ranges in their outlets/distribution products

DB: Leading supermarkets include vegan products whereas Vegarian is a one-stop-shop distributor for only plant-based foods from across the world. Our goal is not to compete with the supermarkets but to assist them by thoroughly vetting brands through our R&D team, which will only put forth the best tried and tested plant-based brands from around the world. We will be the pioneers of plant-based distribution across the UAE by creating an ecosystem of quality driven tasty food brands.

Which countries is Vegarian covering?

DB: Vegarian is currently working in the UAE but we will open offices in Saudi by Q3 2023 with the hope of spreading our message to the people of KSA, as well as targeting an office opening in Singapore during 2022.