[Indie Interview] Scott McCulloch, Co-Founder and CEO at The Vegan Kind
The growth of veganism over the last few years has been phenomenal.
This Veganuary, more than 600,000 people have officially taken part along with some high-profile influencers stepped up to advocate for veganism as a lifestyle choice including Joanna Lumley, Ricky Gervais, Deborah Meaden and Venus Williams.
It’s clear that being vegan is no longer restricted to one month of the year – it’s turning into an informed choice for many.
Looking at the numbers, meat-free and plant-based dairy categories have doubled in size over the past five years and since 2018 meat substitute sales have grown 451%.
Retailers have been adapting to demand with incredible speed. For those in the vegan community, The Vegan Kind are not only the pioneers of plant-based groceries but the UK’s number one vegan subscription service. We talk to Founder Scott McCulloch to learn more about their exciting journey and their plans for the year ahead.
What’s your background and where did TVK start?
I spent the first part of my career in business banking. I was working at RBS and then moved into NatWest as a business manager, so I was in and out of different businesses for close to a decade and that gave me a really good understanding of the commercial side of running businesses – the good the bad and the ugly. I then side stepped into WorldPay – which was at the time part of RBS – and became their regional director responsible for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Northern England.
What if we could help people go vegan…?
It was around this time that Karris and I came up with the idea for TVK. It was 2013. Karris and I were sitting in our flat one night when we came up with this idea that we could help people go vegan if we could just make the transition go smoother. We were vegan ourselves and we knew it was a bit hard to find products. This was the idea of the subscription boxes. And we just knew from that moment that it was going to work – we were so fired up. I knew how to get a business off the ground, I understood the mechanics and I got the payment side of how it would work. Karris already had a good following on social media, and we just felt there was no reason why it wouldn’t work so we were off!
For a while, it was a side hustle for us both and it was difficult. In 2015, Karris came out of her full-time job and a year later I came out of WorldPay. It was a huge leap of faith. When we were both full time on TVK, it then became very real, we had to make it work! Walking away was a bit scary, at this point we’d just had our second child, but we knew we really had to (and wanted to) focus on the business.
Is this when you launched the supermarket?
Yes. At that point, we only had the subscription boxes, so we did some more research. We looked at what people were searching for, where the traffic volumes were, and then we looked at what we didn’t sell, the gaps… like vegan cheese and vegan bacon. That was when we decided to setup the supermarket. Since then, we’ve never looked back.
We’re now in a 35,000 square foot warehouse with a team of 40 to 50 people depending on seasonality. We’re now the number one supplier in the UK, if not Europe.
Veganism has now grown to be commonplace everywhere including the supermarkets. It used to be just Tesco, or just Asda, and with a very limited range, but today all the grocers are taking part and we find ourselves fighting for market share among the big guys – but hey, it’s a good problem to have.
Is being vegan and eating plant-based food the same thing?
Plant based diets are maybe more accessible – some people can’t attach themselves to being vegan but are comfortable with eating a wider plant-based diet or just trying out different aspects of being plant based and that’s all good. People realise that they don’t have to be perfect and maybe they just start on one thing at a time. Going full vegan can feel like quite a lot all at once so plant-based options work well and let people make positive changes as it works for them.
Tell us about some of TVK collaborations?
To mark Veganuary, we collaborated with BrewDog to launch a new pale ale. These guys are passionate about our planet, they are accredited by the vegan society and 50% of their menus are plant based – so we are really excited to collaborate with them.
We’ve also just introduced Tyson, our adorable (family) Chihuahua and Chief Barketing Officer, erm, as a cake! It’s just fun. And we’re donating 10p to Animal Free Research UK with every purchase.
This is the start of a new journey for us. We’ll be evolving to do our own label products in the future. We’ll start with a basic range, but the idea is that when a subscription box arrives in the home, our brand will remain in the home with our own branded items.
What’s on the horizon for 2022?
The last few years have been really very busy. We’ve rebuilt our website; amalgamating the different platforms, which was a long time coming, and we’ve introduced our new branding. This year, it will be all about refining and tweaking, getting the customer journey spot on, simplifying the experience for the end user.
We’ll also be launching our Kind Club. This too has been a long time in the making and will work in the same way as Amazon Prime does. We’ll be offering customers zero shipping, discounts and exclusive offers, and the ability to subscribe to regular products. When we started out, we wanted to make being vegan easy, and this is still true today; the Kind Club is the next extension of this value that we had back then.
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