Beverly Hills-based online marketplace Billion Vegans (billed as an “Amazon for vegans”) recently launched with an initial offering of 4,500 vegan products from 200 sellers such as Daiya Foods, Clif Bar & Company, and Silk. The marketplace was founded by entrepreneurs Amir Lavi and Alon Hochberg—who “went vegan in five minutes” last year after watching a video about the dog-meat trade in China. “After going vegan, I spent several months replacing all my food, clothes, cosmetics and dog supplies, reading the fine print on every product, and contacting the vendors for more information,” Hochberg said. “Then, I bought a pair of vegan shoes on Amazon and when they arrived, I found out the glue was made of pigs’ bones. That was the day I decided to start Billion Vegans.” The company rejected many items labeled as “vegan” on Amazon for inclusion on its platform as they did not meet its comprehensive criteria, which includes verification that ingredients, sourcing, processing, and manufacturing practices are all sans animal cruelty. Billion Vegans also requires that sellers sign a binding commitment to adhere to vegan ingredients and practices, with an obligation to report any changes. “We also provide and verify additional information that is essential for many vegans, such as whether the seller sells vegan products only and whether the product includes palm oil,” Hochberg said. “In the future, we’re planning to provide additional information about sustainability and fair-trade, too.” The company recently raised $300,000 in private investments and is aiming to raise $1 million in equity funding through its WeFunder campaign to tap into the vegan online shopping industry, which Hochberg estimates is potentially worth $30 billion in the United States alone. “These numbers show there’s a tremendous business opportunity,” Hochberg said. “We’re already seeing mainstream companies and investors taking advantage of the growth in the plant-based sector. We want the vegan community to also have the chance to be part of it.” Similarly, ethical vegan marketplace crazy-bean.com launched this weekend in the United Kingdom.
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