IIn 2018, Taanya Ravi from Bengaluru completed her three-year in-depth investigation into animal cruelty in poultry farms, cowsheds and slaughterhouses. Armed with a button camera hidden in her bra, she visited several states as part of an investigation for Mercy for Animals, an animal welfare NGO.

While Taanya was an animal rights activist for a while, this investigation would prove to be a life-changing experience. A year after it ended, she started her company Live Yum Food to sell vegan alternatives to dairy products like cheese and ghee.

Scenes of horror

She remembers her eye-opening journey, which was sometimes a risky proposition, she says Better India“I’ve seen and filmed captivating scenes – be it the smells, screams of terror or puddles of blood. Animal husbandry 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 day. I was followed, looked at by men in these facilities and even threatened. Not only did I want to expose the brutal sights behind closed doors, I also wanted to find a solution. This is how my company came into being. For others it may be a business, but for me Live Yum is a sacred mission to help animals. ”

Taanya credits her dog Oreo with her insight into the world of animals. She became more sensitive to animals. “For me it was as if countless Oreos were trapped in these facilities or on the chopping blocks. My conscience has changed thanks to Oreo. “

Starting a vegan company wasn’t easy. First of all, the industry is a niche market, so it was a big challenge to generate enough income. The choice was harder when you consider that she had to leave her well-paying permanent job with an MNC. After the investigation, Taanya went vegan and like the majority, finding healthy and tasty food was a challenge for her too. It was then that she had her Eureka moment and decided to make affordable cheese herself.

Taanya secured seed funding from an animal rights conference sponsor, and later other activists began making interest-free loans. Her family was there too. However, research and development funds quickly ran out even before it could even begin manufacturing. Then she hired a management consultant. Little did she know he was going to question her mission.

“After a session, he told me to drop the idea and say that I would never make it. I was surprised to hear that I paid from someone to get my business up and running. When I heard this from an “expert,” I wondered if I should go ahead at all. But if I had listened to him, I would be nowhere. Here was my first lesson – always listen to the voice in you, ”Taanya recalls.

She was still aware that veganism is a niche industry and therefore building a decent brand position in the market would be a challenge. So she put all her energy into identifying things that other vegan brands didn’t offer.

Standing hand in hand with ecology

For example, she found that some brands used palm oil in their products, which is essentially not up to vegan standards. “While palm oil is a herbal product, it cannot be called vegan. To plant endless rows of monoculture palm plants, large swaths of the rainforest must be burned, wildlife habitats torn away, and thousands of animals killed. We stand with ecology and we stand with orangutans and refuse to outsource our costs to make a cheaper product. ” She says. She also took care not to add nuts to these cheeses to make sure they were allergy-free.

According to Taanya, making the cheese is a multi-layered process that starts with measuring the ingredients, then mixing, shaping, crushing, weighing, tasting, sealing, storing, and finally shipping.

Live Yum Foods offers four products: cheddar cheese schnitzel, ghee, cream cheese spread and mozzarella cheese schnitzel. The cheddar cheese is made from modified potato starch, filtered water, refined coconut oil, inactive yeast, sea salt, citric acid, annatto (natural color) and vegan natural flavor. According to Taanya, vegan ghee is now an almost exact replica of its counterpart to dairy products. It is made from transesterified vegetable fat, turmeric extract, annatto and vegan natural flavors.

Pavan Melkote, who has been a loyal Live Yum customer for a year, agrees. “I’ve been a vegan for five years and have tried several vegan brands that offer ghee. But the Live Yum Foods ghee is just like the regular one. I order two bottles of ghee every month and the cost is the same as any other popular brand of ghee, ”says Pavan from Bengaluru Better India.

The products are available across India both online and offline. They can be ordered from hers websiteor via Amazon and Big Basket. For people who want to shop in retail stores, products are available at Foodhall locations across the country. Taanya has also listed products in vegan stores online. “We currently look after B2B and B2C. We also cater to individual / institutional requirements for catering and events across the country, ”she adds.

The trip was not without its challenges, Taanya reveals. “There were other challenges related to ingredients, initial distribution, production, unscrupulous business people, and other such temporary setbacks. But I use the setbacks as fuel to keep growing. I want to bring more products to market soon, ”she says.

Edited by Divya Sethu