Saturday, December 28, 2013

Domino's Pizza launches first vegan pizza in Israel



Domino's Pizza (NYSE: DPZ) just launched their first vegan pizza option at a franchise in Israel. They are making the pizzas with a soy cheese alternative instead of dairy.

A pattern is emerging of mainstream food merchants beginning to offer vegan options. Earlier this year, McDonald's announced it would be opening all-vegetarian restaurants in parts of India.

Who's next?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The booming vegan industry



"everyone is getting in on it, from Chipotle to Starbucks to Subway"

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

veganalysis: Whole Foods Market


How about Whole Foods Market as a vegan investment?

There is a lot of overlap between people who shop at Whole Foods Market and the vegetarian and vegan crowd. Where else do you see the Engine 2 Diet and Beyond Meat marketed prominently?

Whole Foods definitely promotes a plant-based diet. Their grocery bags say to eat whole foods, plant-strong, healthy fats, and nutrient dense.

But they also sell meat.



I had the opportunity to see John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, speak at a public engagement in NYC last week. The talk was mostly about Conscious Capitalism, a recent book he co-wrote and one that may be of some interest to readers of this blog. But he also spoke a number of times about vegetarianism. Some of the things he said struck me as downright heroic and rather brave, in a room full of non-vegetarians. I'll have to paraphrase because I didn't record him or take notes.

He alluded a number of times to his own vegetarian diet and how important it is to him. Furthermore, he is clearly conscious of his own store selling meat, and how that clashes with his own values ("we sell a whole bunch of things I'd rather you didn't buy, you and the world would be better off if you didn't buy them"). But they sell it. His reasoning is that it's necessary to sell meat (and potato chips, and a host of other not-very-healthy foods) because the market demands it. The store must sell these things to compete, survive, and thrive, according to Mackey. Is it true? And is the world better off that Whole Foods exists? Are the animals better off that Whole Foods exists? These are questions you'll have to decide on for yourself if you're considering investing in Whole Foods.

As Mackey's interview continued he had another opportunity to describe his vegetarian vision. Setting the scene by alluding to the egregious amoralisms that were slavery and jim crow laws, he predicted that in 50 years, we'll look back on what we're doing to animals today as moral outrage and have zero tolerance for it. I couldn't agree more, but most of the room was filled with "paleo" folks who squirmed in their chairs.

Ultimately, non-violence (and I do believe that's what veganism is all about) has to be a choice. We have to win the hearts and minds of consumers until we have a critical mass that's enough to put the brakes on animal suffering. That's why I'm happy to be an investor in Whole Foods, and help in a small way to bring the message of a plant-strong diet and animal welfare to the rest of the world and country while earning competitive returns.

After all, they also sell a whole lot of good stuff.



Disclaimer: the author holds common stock shares in WFM as a long-term investment.

Friday, May 10, 2013

NYC public school indicative of our veggie future

The big news in the vegan / vegetarian circles of late: an NYC public school has gone vegetarian.

I wish my school had been so wise.

Kids are the future, and the future is vegetarian. This is just the beginning.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

taxes

It's tax season! Time to think about how our role as citizens, taxpayers, and vegans relate!

Taxes support government spending. Government spending supports.. whatever it supports. Let's take an example: farm subsidies. Did you know that without price supports, most estimates put a pound of red meat at about $35 per pound?




That's right, the meat and dairy industries get about 74% of the federal food-based subsidies. Fruits and vegetables, the healthiest foods, get less that 1%.

And then there's SNAP; that's the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. We may not buy any meat for ourselves, but if we're paying a lot of taxes we may be buying meat for our poorer neighbors. What does this mean? Well, if you support SNAP or the idea of government-based food assistance, it gives a reason to push for reforms that reduce or remove animal products from the SNAP menu. It also gives another reason to speak out and encourage our neighbors to adopt a more plant-based way of eating.

We might also want to consider the tax-efficiency of our investments.

Here's an excellent article for vegans from last year's tax season.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Confounded by conglomeration

One of my favorite ways to find investments is to look at the companies I regularly buy from. They are generally providing a product or service I like, and that's worth the money. It's especially fun to be an investor in such a company, because then I get this great feeling that I'm "buying from myself" to a degree.

However, if you've ever tried to look for the companies behind your favorite vegan brands in order to become an investor, you have no doubt run into the problem that everything is owned by just a few companies.


Obviously that's an overstatement. But let's take a few examples. Tom's of Maine sells toothpaste and the like. They have made a commitment to never use animal testing, and they wear PETA's seal of approval. Want to invest? Well, you'll have to buy Colgate-Palmolive stock. Until recently, Colgate-Palmolive used animal testing for their other products (however, now they are working to change the regulations that require animal testing).

How about some delicious vegan food options: Maranatha peanut butter, Westbrae natural vegetarian foods, and Garden of Eatin' tortilla chips (yum!). These are all owned by Hain Celestial, which also owns chicken and turkey subsidiaries.

There is still hope! Before you give up hope and buy stock in Burger King, consider a few alternatives:

  • Invest in a vegan-neutral sector. For example, computer software or industrial steel production. For every company that uses animals for profit, there are several that don't.
  • Invest in "vetted" companies. PETA maintains a database of cruelty-free companies, particularly in cosmetics/health/beauty/clothing.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

McDonalds to open veggie restaurants in India



In a sturdy testament to the power of demand to curb/shift business activity (and ultimately animal suffering!), this article describes how even McDonald's (MCD) will go veggie when that's where the money is at.

Of course, you may be here to learn how to profit from the plant-based revolution; you want to know: should you invest in MCD?

Considering virtually all of their stores are still beef-centric, it would be hard to call that a vegan investment. Furthermore, there's probably plenty of room for a plant-based competitor that's marketed as healthy and compassionate to step into the fast food arena -- I doubt McDonalds will lead that particular charge.

But this serves as another marker that the world is indeed taking steps, albeit slowly, toward our vegan future!

Survey: vegan diet trending in 2013

According to a national survey of 2800 adults, plant-based is going to be one of the top five consumer health trends for 2013:

Last year's rise of the flexitarians is foreshadowing a trend toward meatless eating and outright veganism, vegetarianism's older brother, the survey found. Consumers seeking exotic natural ingredients like jackfruit and quinoa have helped turn the tide, especially as increasingly popular Asian and Indian flavor profiles that turn their backs on animal products. The survey foresees the migration of herbivore-accommodating menus to mid-America from restaurants on both coasts next year.

(source:  http://www.livescience.com/25852-americans-surprising-food-vows-for-2013.html )

USDA agrees. In their report Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook they predict that Americans will eat 500 million fewer chickens and 400,000 fewer cows than they did in 2006. Of course, the million dollar question is, what will they be eating instead and who's best positioned to benefit from the shift?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Know your investments

One of the defining points about what makes us vegan is that we are open to a broader perspective. Rather than turning away from the cruelty that lurks behind our plates, dying to become visible, we have made the decision to look at it full-on. For many of us, it is only when we stop and consider carefully what's actually happening to produce our food that we gain the understanding and resolve to live in a more compassionate way.

Wishful thinking is a common human error. We want to believe that this is how our food animals are raised:


when in reality, the vast majority (but not all) are raised like this:


Do you think the beef and dairy industries want to spoil the first image for you? Of course not. Perhaps this fantasy is the only thing between us and total upheaval (and drastic reduction) in these industries.

But I digress. The point here is, by deciding to think for ourselves, and investigate, we have garnered a wider understanding of what's going on, and figured out how better to align our behavior with what we want -- namely, by going vegan. Once we know, we are empowered to make choices that better serve us.

What I'm trying to say by dancing around it is, we need a different approach to investing. We need to do more than find some place to stuff our money. Consider:
When you save, and then invest your savings, you are creating the future.
- greenamerica.org
As investors, we are cocreators, and so we may be well advised to know our investments. Like any knowing, this entails some work. Study the companies you invest in. Read the reports to shareholders. Read reports from people outside the company (because if they're up to something you wouldn't like, only the best managers will tell you straight up). Once you are a shareholder, vote. If this is too hands-on for you, at least communicate your values to your financial planner or investment advisor. Make sure they know that you care. Ask them tough questions, and if they can't answer, consider getting another one. (Hopefully soon there will be a directory of vegan professionals on the web :) )

I'm hoping to do some of this legwork for you in future posts, but that's no substitute for each of us taking responsibility and trying to maintain some measure of control over our own money. And it starts with looking deeply. Know your investments.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Conversation with a vegan


Me: So you're a vegan, eh?

V: Yep! I don't like the idea that animals should be treated as property. I've even rid my household of all leather and wool products. I don't want to own anything non-vegan.

Me: Do you have a 401k?

V: Uh.. sure, why?

Me: Do you own broad-based stock mutual funds?

V: Uh, er.. I'm not sure, I haven't looked at it in a while.

Me: You might want to check it out, because if you do, you're the proud (partial) owner of such companies as Tyson Chicken and McDonald's.

V: !


We compassionate vegan types can have a tendency to forget that our money is an extension of our own actions. Because what most of us do every day earns money, how we choose to spend and invest our money is a direct representation of where our daily effort is going.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The DNV top 13, Index Funds

I've gone through the S&P500 and haphazardly selected 13 public companies that are Decidedly Not Vegan (or DNV). To be clear, this process is somewhat error prone. Regardless, it's a starting point:

CMG Chipotle Mexican Grill (beef, pork, dairy, chicken)
CAG ConAgra Foods: (slim jims, beef and chicken products, egg products)
COH Coach, Inc. (leather)
DRI Darded Restaurants (Longhorn Steakhouse, others)
DF Dean Foods (Big Dairy)
EL Estee Lauder (animal testing)
HRL Hormel (SPAM)
KRFT Kraft (cheese)
TSN Tyson (chicken, pork)
PG Procter & Gamble (animal testing)
MDLZ Mondelez (a.k.a. Kraft, dairy foods)
MCD McDonalds (need I say more?)
YUM Yum! Brands (Kentucky Fried Chicken, etc.)

Since these are in the S&P 500, they're in most domestic stock index funds. That means they're probably in your 401k. For example, if you're invested in any of the following mutual funds, you're invested in all of these companies:
  • Vanguard S&P 500 Index fund
  • Vanguard Total Stock Market Index fund
  • all Vanguard Target Retirement funds
  • Fidelity Spartan 500 Index fund
So if you care beyond just the return on your investments, but also about the sort of work your money is doing, you may refer to Vegan Investing lesson 1: Broad-based stock market index funds aren't.

This doesn't mean all index funds are DNV, just the broad-based stock ones. Is a treasury bond index fund DNV? No. You're probably also avoiding DNV companies in many sector-specific funds: health care, technology, financials, or precious metals, for example.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ethical vegans - to invest vegan or not?


To the ethical vegan, the question of whether to invest vegan may seem obvious on the surface. To a person who is vegan because they think it's not fair to cage and/or kill innocent animals unnecessarily, certainly being responsible for the caging and killing indirectly as a shareholder is a violation of principle.

To somebody with an understanding of financial markets, however, it might not be so simple. That's because if a group of people chooses not to invest in a class of companies, share prices in those companies will, all other things equal, tend to go down. As the share prices go down, the returns become more attractive until somebody else picks up the investments. This is an effect similar to that seen in vice industry investing, which has been rather lucrative financially over the years.

So there's an argument for keeping animal companies in your portfolio and ending the cycle on the demand side -- namely, reap the profits from animal suffering but refuse to create any further demand for it yourself.

On the other hand, in addition to wanting to have "clean hands," you may find that vegan investing is a nice way to align your interests with the future that you desire, and also a nice way to make a statement of your values.

In my opinion, both sides of this argument have good points and neither is wrong per se.

In his excellent book The World Peace Diet, Will Tuttle puts forth a great case for how, once we have begun to see the truth of animal exploitation, we have a responsibility to step up and make it stop happening. When faced with an investment decision, you are responsible for what your money is enabling. The question then becomes, which choice can you live most comfortably with?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Why invest vegan?

So you're a vegan. You may be wondering, why should I bother to think about whether my investments are vegan?



Some people are vegan for ethical reasons, others for nutritional and health reasons, other for environmental reasons or any combination thereof. Let's go through these one by one.

Those who are vegan solely for nutritional/health reasons may want to consider investing in vegan lifestyle companies because they are well positioned to make more money as plant-based lifestyles become more popular. Indeed, I believe solid plant-based food companies have a great outlook for future growth right now. This factoid is a little dated but I think still relevant: "Sales of vegetarian foods in the U.S. were estimated at $2.8 billion in 2006, which represented a constant-price growth rate of 72% since 1998." (Source: widecirclefund.com). Forks over Knives's smashing success is a testament to the plant-based diet moving into the mainstream.

Serious environmentalists know about the devastating impact animal agriculture has on the environment. From being the #1 carbon emitting industry to using disproportionately large amounts of precious clean water, animal farming has a lot to answer for. Why go to all the trouble of recycling, composting, or conserving energy if a company of which you are a partial owner is wreaking havoc on the environment? Furthermore, as the world gets more crowded and more people realize that animal agriculture is not sustainable at large scales, animal-based companies will be exposed to increasing levels of restrictive environmental regulation and gradually begin to lose out in the marketplace, paving the way for more future-friendly vegan companies to be more profitable.

Investment considerations for ethical vegans coming in the next post..

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Beyond Meat -- strong vegan company takes off

Keep your eye on this one -- the company has a strong team and a vision to change the world.



http://www.beyondmeat.com/

Our vision is to become the market leader in the development and introduction of new plant protein products. We are focused on perfectly replacing animal protein with plant protein where doing so creates nutritional value at lower cost.

From the looks of all the positions they're hiring for, they are pretty well funded at the moment. Already featured in Whole Foods Market, this could easily become a very valuable company in a few years.

Making money -- kindly

I've been vegan for a few years now, and it's become pretty integral to who I am. Some time ago I was going through my investments and realized that many of them are in companies whose values are decidedly not vegan.

So what if I'm personally vegan if I'm profiting from companies that are slaying the innocent?

I scoured the net, did some research, and eventually shifted my investments to ones I was more comfortable with. In future posts to this blog, I'll share my findings.

In the mean time, thanks for visiting and feel free to post a hello!