Monday, August 25, 2014

Carrots, The Healthy Kitchen

Today's post brings another opportunity to align our pocketbooks with our values. I was fortunate to speak with Krishna Shastry, the founder of Bangalore's first vegan health-food restaurant, about his business, veganism in India, and ethical investing.

First, an overview of Carrots, largely in Krishna's own words:

Carrots, The Healthy Kitchen is Bangalore's first vegan health-food restaurant.

Contrary to conventional wisdom regarding eating out, Carrots has been consistently serving “Health & Taste on the same plate” since it opened its doors in early 2013.

Carrots is much beyond just an eating place - here people get good food for stomach, and intriguing food for thought as well. Creating and spreading awareness in the areas of health, environment friendly lifestyle & animal rights/welfare is naturally integrated in our working style.

In a short period of time Carrots has successfully grown in a crowded restaurant space with a diverse menu, and our biggest proof is feedback from our patrons as seen in Zomato and Trip Advisor.
Also adding to our credibility are media reviews who have described us as “Precious 24-carrot food” (Bangalore Mirror), “What a Tasty Twist” (Prevention, India’s No. 1 Health Magazine) and “Incredible International Bakery” (One Green Planet). We have also received positive reviews from likes of Times of India, Financial Times, DNA, Business Standard, The Hindu and Housecalls.
There are multiple growth opportunities that can be pursued to serve this uncontested segment with a potential to expand this concept to a retail chain across India. Hence, we believe this is an excellent opportunity that would be of interest to you.

In talking with Krishna, an ethical vegan, I was intrigued to learn that while India has a strong vegetarian culture, it has few vegans. Most people are vegetarian "by default"---due to tradition---without having considered the ethical, environmental, and nutritional reasons for adopting a vegan lifestyle. "In the US, and in London, people are much more aware [of vegan issues] than they are in India."

This is why Carrots' role as educator is also so compelling. People come to the restaurant curious, and find educational materials at their table, outlining some of the nutritional and environmental advantages to veganism.

As we discussed the opportunity, I couldn't help but think about how fitting this was for vegan investors. Since the goal is financial self-sufficiency, an investment in the restaurant could result in many years of education and providing vegan meals, and you might earn a financial return to boot.

As always with investing, you should do your homework, understand the risks, and exercise caution. Foreign investors can invest without a physical presence. For more information, contact and I'll put you in touch with Krishna.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Wall Street Journal: vegan milks gaining market share

Last month, the Wall Street Journal reports that Whitewave, once a spin-off of dairy company Dean Foods, is now outperforming it's parent by leaps and bounds. The reason?

WhiteWave's profit and sales are climbing as U.S. consumers embrace plant-based milks. Dean has churned out losses on falling domestic demand and higher costs for raw milk. Today, WhiteWave's revenues are just a third of Dean's, but its market value is more than three times its former parent.
 "It is going to be tough to buck the trend of declining consumption of [cow] milk in the U.S.," says Ryan Oksenhendler, an analyst with Arlon Group LLC, a New York-based fund manager that owns WhiteWave shares. He says shoppers quitting cow milk and embracing soy, almond and coconut milks are feeding WhiteWave's gains.

In other words, folks are catching on. According to a recent USDA report, milk consumption is down in all age groups, to the tune of 40% less than 1970 consumption levels.

Dean has closed 10% of it's plants last year and is closing another nearly 4% this year.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Zagat: How Vegetables Became Cool Again

Check out Zagat's new feature titled The Rise of New Veganism:
“I don't think veganism itself has changed as much as the perception of veganism and to a great extent the media presentation of veganism has changed,” he says. “The media has made it ‘cool’ to crave a vegetable. Vegans have at last been invited to the foodie party and they are reveling in their new freedom.”

Veganism is becoming cooler, that I agree with. The article overlooks that many followers of a plant-based diet also tend to be health conscious and prefer so-called "whole foods". Nevertheless it taps right into the increasingly positive temperament towards plant-based eating.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The mainstream is starting to catch on

In a recent high-profile NY Times article, it appears the mainstream is starting to get it.

Demand for meat alternatives is growing, fueled by trends as varied as increased vegetarianism and concerns over the impact of industrial-scale animal husbandry on the environment. 
Among the problems he listed that his firm's investment in Beyond Meat are intended to address are land and water use, stress on global supply chains and the world’s growing population. “These are venture-scale problems with venture-scale returns,” Mr. Komisar said.

While it's still tending to be only venture and early-stage investors who can participate in deals like this, you can bet that before long there will be more mainstream investment opportunities.

For now, a couple options include supporting this startup vegan cafe in Russia, or this veggie fast-food joint in Texas.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Go vegan. Russian Edition.

I have recently been contacted by an energetic entrepreneur who is opening the first vegan restaurant in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and is looking for investment to complete the project. This looks like an exciting opportunity to help bring healthy compassionate food to a part of the world which currently has very few options.

In her own words:
Yes, I'm very enthusiastic and I believe in idea of this project - I'm a vegan, and  this  affects to my world views, beliefs, morals. I'm glad to hear that you interested. At this moment I haven't commercial proposals for this project. Money that has been spent on rent, partial renovation place and design project, were borrowed from the bank, as a consumer credit for individuals. Cause banks in Russia is not willing to lend to start-ups. 
Can I tell you more about cafe of healthy food. Here, in Saint-Petersburg, I don't want to use "vegan cafe", cause in Russia people afraid this word. On the other hand, healthy food now is trend even in Russia. Healthy is a new sexy! It will be modern city cafe.In Saint-Petersburg we have several veg place, but all they are Ayurvedic, Indian food. In Saint-P can't find vegan confectioner, but if find (lucky strike) it contains rafinated sugar(!). At future cafe I decide don't use sugar, dairy product,gluten product(it's new in Russia). But pay more attention to raw cuisine, sprouts, clean nut and dry fruit( without chemicals), and clean water(use only reverse Osmosis filter).
All last week I visited various government institutions in order to find out whether there is a support for young Russian business. The answer was disappointing: no support for young entrepreneurs; But there are lending assistance program after three months of business. Simply put, after 3 months of operation government will give a credit for the replenishment of funds that spent to run the project.
This project is real thing that populate veganism and give to people a freedom of choosing-and I want to will be a part of it. And in Russia I haven't any commercial offer, cause they are not ready for this direction. I like this design too. Green wall is a new element of decoration in Russia. And I think, this design meets the idea of urban cafe with quality food, as I would like to move away from the current opinion in Russia that vegans are sectarians.
 What I can tell you more about project: location Saint-Petersburg, Nevsky street 148 - at the main historical street of town,very popular place for tourist,for walking of cause (it's really nice part of Saint-P). The 39 guest place+bike-delivery service. Also it will be more than cafe,it will be a place for enjoying, book-crossing; place of live dj-sets sound. 
Future for veganism! 
The entrepreneur, Yasha Sha, has experience working as a pastry chef in other vegetarian-friendly places in St Petersburg, and has conducted master classes in raw foods. She has already made good progress on the project, including securing the location and assembling a team of great chefs, welcoming waiters and good pr.

At this point she is seeking $50,000 in investment to carry the project to the finish line. The money will go towards buying kitchen equipment, finishing renovations, and a 2 month cash cushion. If you are an investor looking to change the world in a personal way (and earn a return while you're at it), or if you are local to the Saint Petersburg area and are willing to help diligence an investment, please contact me! I would love to see this dream become a reality.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Guest Post - Humane Investing: How to Get Animals Out of Your Portfolio

By Brenda A. Morris
If you choose not to eat animal products or are trying to limit your meat consumption for ethical reasons, you owe it to yourself and to the animals to take a look at the holdings in your investment portfolio.  Even folks who are die hard carnivores would, all else being equal, most likely choose to eat animals who have been treated humanely versus those who have been abused and exploited.  That said, why not extend that philosophy to your 401k and your IRA and only invest in companies that you want to support rather than those that harm, kill, or profit from animals?
While this may sound like a daunting and time-consuming task, investing in mutual funds is something you are most likely doing already.  You can begin by examining the Sustainable and Responsible Investments (SRI) that are available to you now through your employer or through the firm that  holds your retirement account.  You still want your funds to be profitable so that you can continue on a path to financial independence, but now you are viewing the investment universe through the eyes of someone who cares about animals.
So how do we actually use our investment dollars to affect positive change for animals?  While there is no easy answer, there are certain action items that can be implemented with relative ease. Exclusionary screening means that you do not invest in mutual funds that own companies that exploit or harm animals.   You wouldn’t buy fur or eat meat, so the next logical step would be not owning a company that sells fur or processes animals for food.  Shareholder activism is a different tactic.  Rather than simply avoiding funds that own companies of which you do not approve, you can own the offending companies with the sole purpose of affecting change by either proposing shareholder resolutions or by voting your proxies in accordance to resolutions proposed by others.
Some SRI mutual funds have filed resolutions to reduce animal testing for cosmetic purposes and to improve farm animal welfare.  HSUS and PETA have approached pharmaceutical companies and asked that they not only report on animal testing but phase out testing with animals altogether when doing so is possible (i.e. legal).   They have also asked retailers to end sales of fur products, and for industrial agriculture companies to phase out pig gestation crates and phase in cage free eggs.
Last year I learned that an SRI fund that my clients and I owned actually held a meat processing company.  Because the manager decided to keep this holding even after our discussion, I let my clients know and we chose to sell this fund.  Last month I learned that another SRI fund in our managed account program owned a company that fishes.  While this disturbed me, most of my clients chose to keep this holding as the business purports to be sustainable and environmental to the extent possible.  While SRI has been around for decades, humane investing is still in its infancy and not even every activist sees every issue the same way.
If you are interested in humane investing, then consider developing an investment policy statement which will guide you in determining an appropriate allocation using Sustainable and Responsible Investments.  We have a tremendous opportunity to make a difference by demanding accountability from the companies in which we invest.  Here’s to a world of compassion for ALL beings!
Brenda is a Certified Financial Planner™ professional specializing in Sustainable and Responsible Investments.  As a coordinator of the annual Richmond Vegetarian Festival and an active member of the Vegetarian Society of Richmond, she enjoys educating people on the virtues of living a healthy, cruelty-free lifestyle. Visit or for more information.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Economist predicts vegan future

“We already don’t eat whale. We think whales might be smart. The next question is cows.” Roth says. Most Americans would recoil from eating whale, and feel justified in criticizing the Japanese over whale and dolphin hunting. Most Americans also eat beef. This is possible not because humans evolved to eat only land mammals, or because whales are closer to us in appearance than cows. Both whales and cows are intelligent, social animals with distinct personalities and a range of emotions. The single biggest difference lies not in whales and cows themselves, but the way our society accepts eating one and rejects the other without rational inquiry. If the tide of social paradigm shifts, eating animals in general might be considered morally outrageous by all.

I think his timeline is aggressive, but otherwise he is spot on.