Based in Vancouver, Canada, and with distribution warehouses throughout the US, Vejii is a pure-play online retailer (with no subscription or membership fees associated) that has been up and running for roughly four months, selling a growing assortment of plant-based meat, dairy, and seafood alternatives as well as products outside of food (vitamins & supplements, cosmetics, and pet supplies).
While many natural and conventional grocery retailers have been expanding their plant-based sets, Vejii CEO Kory Zelickson asserts that these parts of the store are still lacking in terms of product assortment and availability.
“A lot of people wind up having to shop at multiple locations in order to get the variety of products that they need,” said Zelickson, who as a vegan is acutely aware of this pain point, and believed that it was about time plant-based brands and products had their own dedicated spot in online retail.
The hope and goal for Vejii, says Zelickson, is to further mainstream plant-based products. The company is also tapping into the continued rise of online shopping, which was already growing at a steady rate prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and now accounts for 10% of total retail sales in the US (according to Kinsta).
Vejii, he said, provides a centralized spot for consumers (vegan and the much broader market of plant-based consumers) searching for plant-based products across categories and to discover new brands.
How are consumers shopping on Vejii?
According to Zelickson, the strongest traction the company has seen on its site are for plant-based dairy and meat alternatives from well-known brands, but he notes that the company has also seen spikes in sales for plant-based seafood. According to data from SPINS, US retail sales of plant-based seafood rose 23.8% to $12.2m in the year to January 24, 2021.
“What was surprising to me is, is the growth and acceleration of the plant-based seafood category. One of our top-selling products is vegan shrimp from a company called All Vegetarian, and we can barely keep those on the shelf,” he said.
Zelickson believes that online shoppers, who can easily hop onto Amazon for similar products, will buy into the Vejii shopping experience because they want to align themselves with a 100% plant-based company (if all other customer touchpoints such as delivery and prices are the same).
Vejii shoppers receive free shipping on orders over $75 and one- to two-day shipping for its most popular products through its Vejii Express offering. Prices for the products, Zelickson said, are the same if not in some instances lower than other online retailers.
For brands listed on the site, Vejii provides broad exposure to consumers interested in trying and adding new plant-based products to their online shopping list.
'You can make a bit of a comparison to an Amazon type of model'
In terms of distribution, Zelickson explained that depending on the company Vejii will either fulfill the orders directly (i.e. through its own distribution fulfillment centers) or will allow Vejii to directly fill their orders from their warehouses.
"You can make a bit of a comparison to an Amazon type of model," he said.
"There are brands that are starting up and do have their own warehouse and ship to direct to customer. In those cases, we onboard those brands, and they have the ability to log into their vendor portal where they can control their own product, images, pricing, descriptions, and even to an extent, discounts and promotions. Those orders basically get fed back to those vendors for shipping."
"We do for some vendors that are not set up for e-commerce, we try to do as much as possible to help those brands in offering fulfillment through our distribution centers, and facilitate that," he continued.
For Vejii Express, which include the site's most in-demand product and brands (e.g. Beyond Meat, Gardein, Field & Roast, and Sweet Earth), all orders for those particular products are fulfilled directly by Vejii through its distribution warehouses and reach consumers within 1-2 business days, said Zelickson.
As the company scales and acquires new customers, Zelickson hopes to expand into new areas including the buzzing cell-cultured meat space.
“Something that we don't have yet on the website, and what I think is the most interesting product category in this industry right now is going to be the cultured and cell-based meat, which I think will really have a huge impact on the meat industry. I'm really, really curious to see how our consumers react to it,” he said, who believes the term “cultured meat” is the most market-friendly way to refer to the novel technology.
In the more immediate term, Zelickson said Vejii will eventually offer local fresh-produce on its site.
“We know what region or what city you're coming from, and we can present you with a unique offering of local produce, and products that are available from vendors in your area,” he said.
This month the company is expanding into the Canadian market, and is also working up to overseas expansion in the second half of 2021.