PETALING JAYA: Many vegetarians and vegans are teased about being “grass-fed” by their meat-loving friends and families, but the former has the last laugh, simply because plant-based food is absolutely delicious.
However, looking for such meals can be a challenge at times if you don’t know where to look.
When Gulshan Kaur Rai, 39, a vegetarian for over 10 years, found it difficult to get vegan and vegetarian food delivered to her home, she decided to take things into her own hands.
“We came up with a very simple app, just to test the waters,” said Gulshan, referring to Zesty Clickz, a vegan food delivery app she created with her husband Mandeep Singh Sidhu, 38, in April last year.
From the feedback they received from their 7,000-odd users, the couple were on the right track. Even users from as far off as Rawang, Kajang and Semenyih, said they were willing to fork out extra on delivery costs.
Then technical issues with the app cropped up. Unwilling to risk losing their loyal user base, the couple worked on an enhanced app called Veg-Hub instead.
Although the main focus is still cooked food, Veg-Hub will also feature groceries, as well as other plant-based products that are cruelty-free, which means they were developed without being tested on animals.
“The idea is for it to be a marketplace for plant-based food and products,” she said, adding that they have about 120 merchants on Veg-Hub, which is twice the number of that on Zesty Clickz.
Another difference is that Veg-Hub will also include non-vegetarian restaurants that have separate plant-based menus. She explained that these restaurants will be clearly indicated on the app.
Given that many vegetarians don’t consume onion and garlic, and that vegan food consists of both, the new app will also allow users to easily filter meals according to their dietary preferences.
Weekly meals will be another feature which will allow customers in the Klang Valley to pre-order one week in advance at a flat delivery rate.
According to the couple, home-cooked dishes, South Indian vegan food, as well as plant-based nasi lemak and burgers are some of the popular dishes among their customers.
Maintaining low delivery costs is undoubtedly their biggest challenge, especially since they are dependent on third-party delivery companies.
“People are willing to pay RM30-40 for food, but upon seeing that the delivery fee is RM15, they become hesitant to place the order. As a customer myself, I’m equally particular about delivery costs,” shared Gulshan.
In addition, there has been a shortage of food delivery riders as most have returned to their original jobs now that all economic sectors are reopening.
“We’re trying to encourage our users to pre-order so that we can book these riders,” said Mandeep, adding that they’re also looking to collaborate with other smaller e-hailing companies, and that in-house deliveries is another possibility.
It’s also no secret that a lot of vegan food in Malaysia is sold at a premium and that veganism is often viewed as a privileged lifestyle.
“People say that going vegan means you have to be very rich. I wouldn’t say that’s the case, although a lot of the processed plant-based food can cost you a bomb,” she explained, adding that lower prices would provide an easier transition to a plant-based lifestyle.
Nevertheless, the couple together with their partners are finding ways to reduce the prices. “Also, with higher demand, the prices will start decreasing.”
Together with their merchants, the couple hope to organise more events in order to spread awareness on plant-based food. These would especially be beneficial to flexitarians, or people who primarily eat vegetarian meals but consume meat on occasion.
“We want to tell people that there are plant-based alternatives to your favourite meal.
“Some have the assumption that plant-based food might not be as tasty, but as a flexitarian, I can attest that most of the times, these dishes surpass the meat versions flat out,” shared Mandeep.
Starting out as a micro enterprise before graduating to a small enterprise, the couple are grateful for all the support and guidance they’ve had over the years.
“That’s what kept us going. In fact, some of the merchants have also become friends,” she said, adding that they plan to make Veg-Hub available in Penang and Melaka someday.
And if you’re still on the fence about plant-based food, here’s what Mandeep has to say: “Try it once, you won’t regret it; it’ll definitely not taste like grass!”
Download the iOS and Android versions of Veg-Hub from June 6.
SPECIAL PROMOTION: RM6 off for the first 300 customers with a minimum order of RM30 using the promo code ‘launchday’ from June 6.