Armed with a master’s degree in computer science from Northwestern Polytechnic University in California, Sunny Gurnani worked for tech giants like eBay. He was on the verge of a career in tech in Silicon Valley, but business acumen and a good heart led him to co-found a plant-based dairy company.
Since its launch in 2019, Vancouver-based Plant Veda Foods Limited (CSE:MILK) has developed award-winning plant-based dairy alternatives. The company’s cashew milk, dairy-free coffee creamers, lassi (drinkable yogurts) and PlantGurt cashew yogurts have landed on the shelves of more than 200 stores, with demand outstripping supply.
The engineer-turned-entrepreneur reveals that he and his wife embarked on the vegan lifestyle embodied by Plant Veda ten years ago.
WATCH: Plant Veda has started trading on the Canadian Stock Exchange under the symbol “MILK”
“My wife was expecting our first child and we had been to a vegan restaurant in California. There were flashcards that depicted how cows in the dairy industry were treated,” says Gurnani, co-founder and managing director of Plant Veda (CSE: MILK).
“For cows to produce milk, they have to give birth, so cows are constantly impregnated. When the calves are born, they are removed from their mother. Male calves are often killed just after birth. My wife and I were expecting our first child – it was horrifying to see the cruelty to animals.
Unstable, Gurnani immersed himself in articles and documentaries about the dairy industry. Haunted by images of animal cruelty, Gurnani, who was a vegetarian in India, went vegan and has since abstained from animal products like dairy and eggs.
“I studied vegan diets and their nutritional value, and about a year before this information, my father had died of heart disease. I felt such regret that my father could have reversed his heart disease by switching to a whole plant-based diet,” says Gurnani.
In 2012, Gurnani wanted to start his own business in the United States, but his immigration status on an H-1B visa had tied him in knots. Legally, the couple couldn’t launch a start-up in the United States, so they set up a certified organic dairy company called Go Vegan, then Nutriva, in India, while maintaining jobs in California. Go Vegan predated Plant Veda and made soy milk, ice cream, and tofu.
“By day I was an engineer in Silicon Valley and by night I ran a plant-based dairy in India. My wife got a license and ran a vegan food truck in California, where she started selling her lassis and yogurt herbal.
Tired of waiting for US green cards, the enterprising couple immigrated to Canada with their business plan for Plant Veda (CSE:MILK).
“We wanted to do well by doing good. A plant-based business is ethical, good for the planet, and has several health benefits,” says Gurnani.
“We decided to move to Vancouver and signed up for Canada’s largest vegan and vegetarian show, Veg Expo, before we even got to Canada. At Veg Expo on May 5, 2019, we launched Plant Veda’s (CSE:MILK) Cashew Drinkable Yogurt Lassi in five different flavors.
Plant Veda’s revolutionary creamy lassi (CSE: MILK), a traditional yogurt drink cherished in South Asia, was the right product in the right place. It won Veg Expo Product of the Year in 2019 and Clean Eating Magazine’s Clean Choice Award in 2021.
To be a heavyweight in the $900 million specialty beverage market, Plant Veda (CSE: MILK) has positioned itself as a “healthier, wholesome and sustainable” plant-based dairy company.
“We don’t use artificial flavors. Our mango lassi is made with cashew yogurt and chunks of whole alphonso mango. Our lassi contains a special blend of 10 billion probiotics,” says Gurnani.
Plant Veda’s line of lassi drinkable yogurts (CSE: MILK) includes five flavors: mango, blueberry, strawberry, saffron cardamom and ginger turmeric.
Plant Veda co-founder Vanita Gurnani, director of product innovation, says figuring out how to mimic the texture, taste, and appearance of plant-based products took patience and the right ingredients.
“I was born and raised in Anand in Gujarat, which is the dairy capital of India. I grew up loving dairy, so after going vegan, I missed all of those things. When we launched Plant Veda, it was very important to get the right taste and texture,” says Vanita.
“We also wanted our products to be healthy and that’s why we always use healthy ingredients like Canadian maple and agave to lightly sweeten our products. There are no artificial sugars, high fructose corn syrup or oils in our products. They are wholesome, tasty and wholesome.
The Plant Veda Innovation Center is a 25,000 square foot facility located on Annacis Island in Delta, BC. It is a springboard for new product development and large-scale production. The ongoing Phase 1 upgrade will increase annual yogurt production to 2.5 million liters from 100,000 liters previously.
In a nutshell, the Delta plant will power production of $10 million worth of products per year, according to the company. By 2022, Plant Veda claims that with “minimal additional upgrades” the facility will produce 15 million liters of product. The expansion could propel Plant Veda’s annual revenue to $60 million within a few years, depending on the company’s growth plan.
Additionally, the Delta facility will be a factory-based commercialization center for innovation, production and distribution.
“We have invested significant capital and effort to convert the facility into a fully factory-based innovation center with designs, upgrades, equipment and processes best suited for R&D and manufacturing. plant-based beverage production,” said Plant Veda President Michael Yang.
Yang says Plant Veda is developing “strategic partnerships with technology providers” that could also make the Innovation Center a co-manufacturing facility in Canada.
Dairy is a $490 billion global market, and the alternative dairy sector is expected to reach more than $52 billion by 2028, a 156% jump from the current $22 billion, according to Grand View Research. .
Ultimately, the popularity of Plant Veda’s lassi catapulted the company’s products into Whole Foods.
“We are increasing our in-store presence and are present in over 200 stores with more chains stocking Plant Veda products in Western Canada with UNFI, Pro Organics and Sysco (NYSE:SYY) as distribution partners,” says the co-founder and Chief Revenue Officer of Plant Veda. Officer Mayur Sajnani.
“We will expand our presence and expect strong revenue growth in 2022 as we bring our PlantGurt probiotic yogurt line to stores,” adds Sajnani.
The PlantGurt product line was launched in November of this year in three flavors: plain unsweetened, mango and blueberry.
A tub of PlantGurt yogurt contains billions of probiotics. The recent boom in probiotic products reflects an effort to reintroduce bacteria thought to promote good health. The global probiotics market size is expected to reach $95.25 billion by 2028, according to Grand View Research.
After establishing itself in Canada, it’s time for Plant Veda to come full circle and enter the US market. “As we expand geographically into the United States from Canada, we will see explosive growth and are working on setting up a distribution center with a third party in the United States,” says Sajnani.
Contact author Uttara Choudhury at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow her on Twitter: @UttaraProactive