After her own personal investigation into how animals are treated in poultry farms, Indian entrepreneur Taanya Ravi founded Live Yum Foods in order to provide her community with vegan and cruelty-free dairy alternatives like cheese and ghee.
Bengaluru-based Live Yum Foods offers customers cheddar cheese shreds, ghee, cream cheese spread, and mozzarella cheese shreds.
Made from interesterified vegetable fat, turmeric extract, annatto, and vegan natural flavours, the company claims that their vegan ghee is almost identical to its dairy counterpart.
Long before she launched her company, Ravi conducted a three-year investigation for Mercy for Animals, an animal welfare NGO, on animal cruelty in poultry farms, cowsheds, and slaughterhouses, with a hidden camera, traveling to several states.
Witnessing the cruelty first hand, Ravi wanted to replace the dairy products with vegan alternatives without compromising on taste, and at the same time refrain from harming any animals. Ravi decided to turn vegan and that’s when she realised that there were hardly any alternatives in the Indian market. She decided to start developer her own cheese.
In an interview with Better India, the former national-level badminton player discussed her experience during the horrid investigation. “I have witnessed and filmed gut-wrenching scenes — be it the smells, screams of terror, or pools of blood. Animal agriculture is inherently cruel and unnecessary. I saw it with my own eyes. The images of heads without bodies, and their state of helplessness, haunt me to this date. In the process, I was chased, leered at by men in these facilities, and even threatened. I didn’t want to just expose the brutal sights behind closed doors, but also find a solution. That’s how my venture came into being. For others, it may be a business, but to me, Live Yum is a sacred mission to help animals.”
I have witnessed and filmed gut-wrenching scenes — be it the smells, screams of terror, or pools of blood. Animal agriculture is inherently cruel and unnecessary. The images of heads without bodies, and their state of helplessness, haunt me to this date. That’s how my venture came into being. For others, it may be a business, but to me, Live Yum is a sacred mission to help animalsTaanya Ravi, founder of Live Yum Foods
After leaving a lucrative position at Goldman Sachs, Ravi initially found it challenging to find funds to launch her company. Eventually but she was able to secure seed funding from a sponsor of an animal rights conference, as well as other activists that helped her with interest-free loans.
However, with the funds exhausted in research and development, she hired a business advisor only to be questioned about her idea. None of this deterred her from her mission. She started looking into the vegan market and in an effort to offer something unique, she found companies that were using palm oil in their products, which in reality don’t meet vegan standards.
According to Ravi, while palm oil is a plant-based product, it cannot be called vegan. “Planting endless rows of monoculture palm plants requires burning large swathes of rainforest, snatching away wildlife habitats, and killing thousands of animals. We stand with the ecology, and we stand with orangutans, refusing to externalize our costs to make a cheaper product.”.
She didn’t want to add nuts either, in order to make the products allergy-free. Apart from this, the company is committed to fair trade practices and sourcing, and the products are wrapped in 100% recyclable packaging. In addition, they contain no cholesterol or trans fats, and are fortified with vitamin A and D, not to mention good sources of Omega 3, 6, and 9.
Available for purchase across India, Live Yum Foods products can be ordered directly through their website and via Amazon, Big Basket or other online vegan stores. Apart from this, they are available offline at Foodhall locations across the country. The young company also provides catering for various events.
Ravi’s journey has not always been easy. “There have been other challenges concerning ingredients, initial distribution, production, unscrupulous businessmen, and other such temporary setbacks. But I use the setbacks as fuel to grow further. I aim to launch more products soon.”
A study conducted by the Pune animal protection group Animal Equality, highlighted some shocking findings, such as reproduction in dairy farms do not take place through natural mating, instead making use of artificial insemination. Other horrific practices include dead calves being stuffed with hay to trick the mother so milk production can continue, and animals being skinned alive before being butchered.
With the growing consumer concern around animal welfare, experts say that the vegan cheese market is already at US$2.7 billion, but it’ll double to US$4.5 billion by 2025 and another report published by Singapore-based vegan review platform abillionveg, researchers described the last year as an “explosive” year for plant-based dairy.
The nut-free alternative dairy industry is becoming an increasingly exciting market with companies like Los Angeles-based Grounded Foods launching its plant-based cheeses made from non-GMO hemp seeds and “ugly” cauliflowers last year, and Hong kong chef Jan Yeung launching her homegrown vegan dairy brand, Garden Hill PB, which includes offerings like mayo spreads, pepper jack cheese, and butter made from tofu.
Apart from these, Multizen, one of the largest B2B confectionery and snack companies in the Greater China region, announced its investment into Californian vegan pea-based dairy brand Ripple Foods.
Lead image courtesy of Live Yum Foods.