Sagar Trivedi: Tell us about Vegan Food Club. How it all started?
Rohan Saraf: First of all, thanks for having me. I come from a vegetarian family in India. Ever since I was little, I had been only consuming vegetarian food. India is a paradise for veggie lovers. The sheer amount of variety in vegetables is overwhelming. I still wonder how Hindus and later Jain communities, consciously decided to turn vegetarian thousands of years ago. After my travels around the world, I noticed such ancient religions like the Incas from Peru or Jains from India, had one thing in common and that is their love for nature and the environment. So having this legacy and love for cooking in my family helped me a lot. But the main inspiration has always been my mother, Sandhya, who is a vegan by choice. And here in Europe, we never had a decent vegan meal. It was always either a vegan burger or pizza or something similar. You see, European cuisine isn’t easy to be made into vegan. This is why we see so many new food tech startups trying to recreate a vegan or rather plant-based version of meat. So I wanted to change the playground for the vegan meals industry. My love for the taste of Indian cuisine and the health factor of Mediterranean cuisine has come together in a form of a meal subscription. If you simply take dairy products away from Indian vegetarian meals, they become vegan. So it wasn’t hard to make something like this.
Sagar Trivedi: But why a subscription when you can sell on popular food delivery apps? Is it also a ghost kitchen?
Rohan Saraf: Where I come from, going to restaurants is a big deal. You know that India hasn’t been a rich country like it is now. As a student or working-class people, we are used to having our meals cooked and delivered by a community called dabbawallahs. In the late 1800s, Mumbai had become a magnet for economic migrants who wanted a better life. They had no means of having a kitchen so some of the workers came together and decided to cook and deliver meals every day. It’s noted that Harvard University has done research on them and found astonishing findings in terms of
Agile Management. Prince Charles has a special relationship with them and this community also got an invitation to attend the royal wedding in 2005. So this model of meal delivery on subscription has been in India everywhere. In educational institutions, factories, offices, and everywhere else. About 5000 dabbawalas deliver about 175 thousand to 200 thousand four-course meals every day in a metal lunch box. So what stands out in this is the convenience, taste, and nutrition which has been the main inspiration of Vegan Food Club. A subscription makes it easier and cost-efficient for the customers. If you see, our food costs only €4,60 per meal, it is organically sourced, chef-cooked, and delivered all over Spain. So from the kitchen to doorstep journey of our meals could have only happened with a subscription model.
Sagar Trivedi: That’s incredible. How come yo u guys made it possible at this price? It almost seems impossible.
Rohan Saraf: That’s where the Ghost Kitchen model comes in the picture. Ghost kitchens are something growing here in the west now. But we have had it since forever. Since I was in college, I was used to having meals delivered to my dormitory for less than €30 a month. And there is a myth about vegan food that it’s very expensive, but it really should not be. Veggies cost less to grow and purchase compared to meat. So it shouldn’t really be expensive to cook and consume vegan meals. And vegan meals are not something extremely special. If you see, even French fries are vegan.
Sagar Trivedi: Do you cook yourself? Or you have a team?
Rohan Saraf: I used to in the early phase. I am very experimental. But the food market for vegan-curious, which is our main customer base here in Spain, hasn’t matured yet for the experimental recipes like Garlic Rice as daily meals. So we decided to tweak the popular recipes like kinds of pasta and soups with vegan and Indian touch.
Sagar Trivedi: Do you use meat or dairy alternatives in the recipes?
Rohan Saraf: With exception of Tofu, nope. Our idea is not to create an illusion or imitation of meat. Otherwise, what is the point if our food keeps reminding you about meat? Idea is to create original recipes with vegetables and non-dairy options like coconut milk which gives incredible taste and substance to recipes.
Sagar Trivedi: What’s next for VFC?
Rohan Saraf: We are still growing in Spain and the response has been phenomenal. The next step is of course expansion to other markets but we still have a lot to grow here and we are thoroughly enjoying the journey so far. Regarding our meals and other offerings, it would be better to wait & watch.
Sagar Trivedi: How do you ensure the nutritional value of each meal? Isn’t it hard to get all the nutrition from the vegan diet? At least that seems to be the popular notion.
Rohan Saraf: That’s more of a myth rather than a notion. If you see the popular research about the vegan diet, one could get all the nutrition. We also have an in-house nutritionist who makes sure that each meal consists of recommended ingredients and methods of preserving essential nutrition. So what our customers get is a completely balanced meal and not just a fast snack. What we also stand out differently about is the quality. I mean you can also buy a ready-to-eat meal in any popular supermarket chain. But they hold convenience as the core value and not taste or nutritional value so much.
Sagar Trivedi: Sounds deliciously nutritious. How could one get hands on it?
Rohan Saraf: It’s simple. If you are anywhere in Spain. Be it a farm or factory, house or office, you simply have to visit our website, choose a plan of your liking, and get our vegan meals delivered at your doorstep by Seur, a notable logistics company in Spain. Moreover, we don’t have any plan retainers which means you can pause or cancel the plan anytime without losing any money. We genuinely want to think about the customers first. Since we cook the meals every week, our club members will get the meals on either Tuesday or Wednesday as per their choice.
Sagar Trivedi: Incredible. I would definitely like to try one of those.
Rohan Saraf: Absolutely. In fact, we would like to offer your readers/listeners a special discount on the first delivery. Just ask them to use a discount coupon VFC50 and they will receive the meals at their doorstep.