Kelowna home to new online vegan marketplace serving the US
A recent survey indicated B.C. is the most vegan-friendly Canadian province, so it’s not really surprising it would be home to a burgeoning food supply business catering to that market.
That it’s in Kelowna specifically and serving the U.S. exclusively, however, does make it a bit more unusual.
Vejii is a Kelowna-based, online marketplace that launched just shy of three months ago, and is building one of the largest online selections of plant-based products, including not just food but personal care items and vegan wine as well. The platform is committed to supporting the growth of small businesses and meeting the needs of those who want a plant-based diet, Vejii CEO Kory Zelickson said from his Kelowna home office.
“I’m vegan, and obviously we've seen a great trend in the plant-based foods industry over the last couple of years,” he said.
“I have a family of five, with three young kids, and for us, we tend to have to go shopping to at least two to three different stores on a weekly basis to be able to get the number of products that we need for our family.”
While grocery stores have grown their selection of plant-based products, it's still limited, especially in terms of plant-based meat, dairy alternatives and supplements.
“The goal really with what we're doing, from the consumer side, is to be able to provide everything that you need in one location,” Zelickson said.
There’s also a secondary aim to pursue mainstreaming of vegan and plant-based products, which have a smaller carbon footprint.
“I think that over the last number of years there's just been such a great influx of plant-based alternatives that it's making the lifestyle and diet, a lot more accessible for everyone,” he said.
“We feel that there's a lot more opportunity that will have a lot greater impact on targeting the community of flexitarians — which are people (who) are interested in introducing a plant-based diet into their lifestyle — and making it a simple and convenient process for them.”
From his perspective, selling a Beyond burger to somebody that's not vegan is almost a bigger win than selling it to somebody who is because it shows growth in the vegan, plant-based eating market.
Vejji sells all the top brands on its site and is able to onboard new brands and startups.
“It’s similar to how you work with Amazon but in an exclusively vegan environment,” he said. “And I can tell you that we have seen an incredible amount of outreach from local startup brands, where we're operating now, and brands, all over the US and Canada, that are coming to the market with really innovative products.”
It’s a market with unlimited growth and for Kelowna there will also be benefits as time marches on.
Currently the website operates out of the US, though there are plans to launch into Canada in the next months.
“That will cover the entire country, not just Kelowna,” he said.
They recently launched Vejii Express; a new service that offers guaranteed shipping within two business-days for selected products across the US, and it requires warehouses.
In Canada, when the business moves north, there will also be two distribution centres — one in B.C. and another in Ontario. In time, Kelowna will be home to its office space, and only time will tell how big that enterprise will be.
One thing he knows for sure, is that these days you can run a business from anywhere in the world.
"Originally, I lived in the Caribbean for five years, then in Florida for five years and actually literally just picked Kelowna because we loved it so much," he said. "So when we had to move back to Canada we looked at all of our options and just chose Kelowna and we have been so happy living here for the past three years I just never plan on leaving."
To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.
We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above.