Vejii Makes It Easy to Shop for All Your Favorite Plant-Based Foods in One Place
So you want to cook a healthy, vegan dinner, a special recipe you picked out that your loved ones will love (and may even convert them to eating more plant-based), and now all you need to do is find all those ingredients. But wait, everywhere you click there is something missing. The vegan cheese, the plant-based meat alternative, the vegan cream alternative, egg replacements, spices. Instead of having to order from four, five, or six places to find what you need, a new retailer called Vejii (ShopVejii.com), has just launched to make it easier to shop all in one easy place.
We sat down (virtually of course) with the co-founder of Vejii, Kory Zelickson, vegan since 2011, to hear how this genius marketplace came to be, what his favorite plant-based meals are (his kids are all vegan), and how he is disrupting the online retail space. Vejii is aiming to support new innovative brands, local suppliers, and create a marketplace that makes it easier to shop for vegan or plant-based foods that are healthier for you and your family, better for the planet, and not too expensive either. (Vejii offers a price-match guarantee).
"Vejii is a digital marketplace for plant-based products that offer thousands of products ordered online and delivered to your door," Zelickson's plan for plant-based domination states (on his Linked In page). "By simplifying the vegan shopping experience and making these products more accessible, we can enable more people to try a plant-based lifestyle."
He's a British Columbia-based engineer by trade, with over 15 years of tech innovation, having successfully co-founded Namaste Technologies, (described as "re-imagining the cannabis experience") which later went public and reached a market valuation of more than $1B, returning more than 20 times returns for its earliest investors. Now we expect him to take that same path with Vejii: Build, launch and scale. But while all that's going on, we get to shop, click, cook and eat healthy plant-based foods we love from brands like Beyond Meat, Gardein, Impossible, Follow Your Heart, No Evil, and Earth Balance, with many more on the way.
Here is what Zelickson, who is Vejii's co-founder and CEO, has to say about the future of retail, plant-based food and how Vejii is helping change the way we eat, one "Add to Cart" click at a time. Perhaps the biggest question is, how did we live without it for so long?
The Beet: Why did you decide to start Vejii? And congratulations on that by the way.
Kory: You still have to go to multiple stores to find everything you need. As a family of 5 with three young kids, maintaining a healthy vegan diet meant that we had to shop at multiple grocery stores on a weekly basis, in order to get everything we needed. We started Vejii in order to provide greater accessibility to plant-based products, in a convenient and inclusive shopping experience.
By providing access to thousands of vegan products in an online platform and promoting healthy lifestyle choices, we’re moving the world forward, one purchase at a time.
The Beet: You grew so fast! Now we can buy more than 3,200 products on Vejii?
And Wine? Most people think wine is vegan. It's a shocker when you learn wine isn't vegan.
Kory: You'd be surprised at how many animal-based products are in wine. So now we offer all the most popular vegan brands. Plus the most popular frozen products, and meat alternatives. We just launched Vejii Express which offers guaranteed shipping with 2 days on our best-selling products across the country.
Our two-day shipping program Vejii Express covers the most popular categories: Plant-based meats, dairy, and seafood. We felt it was really important for us to offer those products first, and offer two-day shipping.
We do it in ice packs that are super-efficient or better for the environment. Now we are taking steps to regionalize shipping so it's even more efficient, faster, and better for the planet. So the next step is Installing distribution centers around the country to make that happen.
The Beet: Vejii is a Canadian company, but you deliver all over the US
Kory: We are Canadian. I'm up here in British Columbia. The parent company is in BC. But we launched only in the US. So we are starting in the US... A lot of product development is in the US. We work with the Plant-Based Foods Association. All the startups in their networks. We offer new startups to come sell on Vejii and quickly grow on a national scale. We've met with founders from across the nations and it's really incredible to see how many new startups are coming to the market. We look forward to supporting these small businesses as we scale.
The Beet: Everyone wants to start the next Beyond. Do you see more growth ahead?
Kory: Yes, We are just at the beginning of the plant-based movement. Really awesome startups are creating innovative products. We want to be there to help start-ups get discovered across the nation and help consumers discover their next favorite products.
The Beet: Now you are offering kits to make entire meals. That's so convenient
Kory: Yes, we want to make it easier than ever to cook vegan or plant-based.
Our goal at Vejii is vegan-made simple, we are working with our team and celebrity chefs to develop custom meal kits that are easy to make and ship within two days as part of Vejii Express. The addition of meal-kits and product bundles to the site has been the most significant addition to supporting our goal of vegan-made simple. natural fit. We see Vejji as all-inclusive for people who want to know everything is vegan on the site. But we are going to have more of an impact if we get people not vegan to come and try it.
Plant-based meats have been a sticking point for people who want to try them. Years ago when I stopped eating meat, they didn't have all the Beyond and chicken substitutes they have now.
When we sell one Beyond Burger to someone who is just out to try it, that's a win for us. Instead of selling, to only vegan consumers, we want to sell to everyone.
The Beet: So are you vegan? And does your family also eat plant-based?
Kory: Yes. I love cooking and my favorite thing is to cook a vegan meal for someone and they say: I didn't know vegan food could be this delicious. I often make them a version of Chinese food or Asian fusion. I am not such a healthy eater! I loved Reuben sandwiches and now vegan cold cuts coming to the market.
I started my vegan journey in 2011. Going plant-based was a process for me. I was actually living in the Bahamas and the ability to have quality meat was not great because it was all imported. Then I watched Forks over Knives. Then I learned more about the ethics around our food system. And it all added up.
Giving up dairy is hard when you have kids. There was a period of time when you couldn't get a lot of great vegan cheeses, but now there is so much more on the market. Now I love cashew nut cheeses. We have done a great job getting there.
The Beet: You work with Tia Blanco the pro surfer. Love Her!
It seems like every day a new athlete or artist tells fans to go plant-based.
Kory: Yes! Tia is now an ambassador and also one of our investors as well. She was in The Game-Changers. That movie did a great job and pushing the alternative point of view, by looking at how elite athletes are taking an alternative approach to nutrition, and switching to a plant-based approach. That movie triggered a response for me. It made me realize that we have different consumers who will try Vejii; Athletes, who perform better on a plant-based diet.
The Beet: That's our story too. We have optimal health seekers reading The Beet.
Kory: There is a performance nutrition aspect to going plant-based. Performance in the gym for athletes starts with nutrition. What are they fueling with? But there are also consumers coming to Vejii who are looking to lower their risk of disease.
So for different consumers, we offer different strategies. We created personas: Family shoppers, health seekers, performance nutrition athletes. Obviously, the user experience that we are trying to make will be approachable to everyone.
There are the Strictly Ethical Vegans, the Social Virtual Vegans, who are mostly Millennials, and those Eating Vegan for their Health. And there's the Sports and Athletic Vegan.
People want convenience. They come to Vejii and want to know: Can I buy everything there for my recipe? People starting out [eating plant-based] don't know what to cook.
The Beet: A lot of parents want their kids to eat plant-based by also make it convenient
Kory: My kids are five, seven, and nine. They are vegan. My five-year-old is hysterical. From a young age, we have explained to them why we eat this way. They have a pretty good understanding of it. He is always concerned that when he goes to someone's house they are going to try to serve him meat.
As of right now, Vejii has you covered. In terms of variety, you're not going to find everything you need anywhere else, from general grocery non-perishables to plant-based meats and snacks. We also have a growing cosmetic area, pet supplies, and more. We just launched Dear Self, Tia Bianco's beauty line.
We want to get produce in there too but that will be in the next phase when we have regional distribution centers.
The Beet: You are going to crush the competition. Those little guys that start with A...
Kory: People don't love to shop on Amazon because they want to support local businesses. We want to promote startups and this is a priority for us as a company. We have begun geofencing customers for local vendors so that we can have a local delivery area and get local grocers to supply the fresh foods. These will be local suppliers, who you know, sending the products to your house.
So we will support local businesses in the community. We are about to form regional partnerships with local distributors who can work with our local distributors to get produce.
We are busy supporting local brands. A lot of brands approaching us directly. We created a vendor dashboard, so a new vendor can come on, upload their products, assets, describe the business, and offer ads for their products and a lot of incoming brands coming to us to list. So they can do it themselves. We are getting new brands coming to our marketplace every day.
If you already tried Vejii, we are growing every week. So come back to explore the site. If there are great brands you want to see listed on the site let us know that as well. We have a great diversity of products. This is such an exciting industry that our entire team is always revved up ad excited about the future. It's an exciting and pivotal time in the company's history. We are very happy with the traction we are gaining.