This App Connects Consumers to Vegan, Cruelty-Free and Sustainable Foods
I always say that when you align your passion with your skillset, it’s the "Bingo! Effect", meaning you've landed on the work jackpot by using your strengths to further your beliefs. The net outcome is usually feeling like you're 120% of yourself: Empowered, energized and excited to get to work every day. This is exactly what happened to Vikas Garg who left his 15-year Wall Street career as a trader to start the abilliionveg app.
For Garg, as time went on, the big bucks weren’t enough to keep his interest in the financial world and he was tired of having his career exist outside of his values, which included a respect for nature and animals. According to Garg, he thought he could be the most impactful in the world if he built something that allowed him to live by his principles every day. “That’s the life I wanted,” he explains.
He launched the abillionveg app, which allows people to review and share plant-based menu items, packaged foods, and cruelty-free consumer products to one another. The goal is to make it fun and easy to find vegan and cruelty-free choices, and encourage people to support each other on their journey to living more sustainably. “People don’t even need to be 100% vegan. They could just want to have a life more aligned with sustainability,” he says. The app's tag line is Social Media for Social Good.
Still a businessman at heart, Garg notes that future revenue opportunities are huge. “We are building a global ecosystem. We connect businesses to consumers, and we connect consumers to each other. We also have a B2B element that helps companies identify peers they can do business with around the globe.” Cha-Ching!
Even better, Vikas wanted to create something that helps the planet and animals. “I wanted to help people close this gap from where being sustainable feels like a sacrifice, to where being sustainable is just doing the right thing and the best thing for one’s health, the health of the planet, and for animals.” In addition to helping make a plant-based lifestyle easier, more accessible, and entertaining, abillionveg app donates $1 for every review to animal sanctuaries and conservation charities around the world.
Like all of us, Garg wasn't born vegan but he did start out vegetarian. Part of his rationale for building the abillionveg app is that he wanted to help people through the transition to living more plant-based. “I’ve been raised vegetarian since birth,” Vikas told me. “Sometime in 2008, I started transitioning to eating vegan. It wasn’t easy. Despite being vegetarian, cutting out dairy, cheese and eggs were hard, especially because it felt like I had far fewer options when dining out.” With the abillionveg app, he wanted to make the switch easier and fun for others, so they didn't have to feel there was a major sacrifice involved. In reviewing products and sharing reviews, consumers let their community know what tasty options are nearby, so eating plant-based becomes more of a discovery and quest for the best food experience, and an exercise of abundance, rather than of sacrifice.
Here is a snippet and video from my long-form Awesome Vegans Influencer Series Interview with Vikas Garg.
Elysabeth: Do you see the world going plant-based?
Vikas Garg: I think that it’s going to be nuanced, but I think the direction is very strong for sustainability. The new generation of consumers-the next generation of consumers, anybody who’s under the age of twenty to twenty-five, has grown up in a world where they’ve been surrounded by this new sort-of counter-trend: this new trend toward sustainability.
When they’re going out to buy their next car, they’re going to buy an electric car, right? Or maybe they’re not even going to buy a car. They don’t need to buy a car anymore because they grew up in a generation of Uber. So, they’re not going to buy a car and they’re going to take shared transportation or public transportation, right? And I think that this, in a way, is analogous to so many different things.
Vegan options are not going to be that funky weird thing on the menu, but what we’re trying to do is really say (to restaurants with our abillionveg app is), “Hey, your vegan option needs to be the best thing on the menu. The sustainable option needs to be the tastiest and the most delicious, the most fun, and colorful and interesting thing on the menu.” And people are going to grow up in an environment where choosing vegan is sexy and it’s trendy and fun, and it’s interesting and it’s delicious.
And you know buying something- buying a car that doesn’t have leather seats is more luxurious and interesting. And buying, you know, shoes that aren’t made out of leather is more interesting. And why would you buy cosmetics that have the shell of an insect ground up inside of your lipstick or use tissues from sharks in your mascara or any of these different things, right? Like, that’s just not cool.
Elysabeth: What are your Top Five Tips for Going Plantbased?
- The more colors on your plate the better you’ll feel. And no, I’m not talking about ketchup!
- Carbs are great! Like anything, it shouldn’t be everything on your plate, but whole food grains like quinoa and rice and beans and avocados…what could be better? And they are filling, so load up!
- Some of my favorite things like pizza and Indian food are surprisingly light and more delicious without animal ingredients. You can eat them and not feel like you have set yourself back and now suddenly need to take a nap. So, enjoy these treats so you will never feel like you are missing out.
- Don’t get frustrated if you make mistakes. It’s going to happen. You’d be surprised at how much stuff has dairy in it. As you get more and more comfortable reading labels, you will see whey pop up everywhere and soon be able to navigate around it. Until then, don’t sweat the small stuff, keep moving in the right direction.
- Be positive and proud of your choices. You’re living life with values and purpose! What could feel better, both mentally and physically, than that?
Elysabeth: What trends are you seeing?
Vikas: It’s really encouraging to see that people, even if they are already vegetarian or pescatarian, are looking to reduce their consumption of meat and dairy. People are more aware of the health hazards of meat, such as the [health impact of] antibiotics, hormones or steroids that are injected into animals.
In the more affluent markets, there is also a greater awareness of the environmental toll of our food choices and our food supply system. In addition, we see people increasingly concerned about the concept of social justice and the true cost of our actions, particularly since Covid, whether it’s from a human and social perspective, or the plight of animals.
Veganism is so much more than a trend, he finds, as more people embrace plant-based foods. With the help of the consumer-friendly abillionveg app, he hopes that businesses will be able to connect with consumers better and move even faster toward introducing more plant-based options to satisfy growing demand.
For the full interview, click here.
Elysabeth Alfano is a plant-based expert for mainstream media, breaking down the plant-based health, food, culture, business and environmental news for the general public on radio and TV. Follow her @elysabethalfano on all platforms.