Veganism is a lifestyle, most people are switching and adopting the green way of life. Riteish and Genelia joined the vegan brigade about a couple years ago. They strived to create a brand that values sustainability along with healthy lifestyle choices and that’s how Imagine Meats came to life. The aim to change the world one meal at a time worked like a dream for the power couple.

Mitisha Mavani from MissMalini at the Starbucks x Imagine Meats Launch

They joined hands with Starbucks to create a vegan menu to cater to the varied customer base of the coffee brand. Starbucks over the years has made a deep impact on their customers with the kind of products they have built and for the customer chain they have built: inculcating a vegan menu was natural progression.

We sat down with the CEO of Starbucks Sushant Dash and Riteish and Genelia Deshmukh to discuss the newest vegan menu of Starbucks in collaboration with ImagineMeats.

1) How was it starting out or to just bring about the collaboration?

Riteish: It was more of a personal journey that eventually became a dream for us. And Imagine Meats because we loved our meats and how do we get the meat taste and feel without killing any creature? We started working on the kind of food we would like. And after some time, when we found something that we liked, we decided to put it out for the world to see: a way to live in a more sustainable way, make the planet a better place to live in and do our bit for the environment.

And I remember coming to Starbucks and feeling like why aren’t there enough vegan options? There should be options for everyone. I wish we had more vegan options and that’s how it sparked the idea. We shot the e-mail, took it forward and that’s how the journey with Starbucks began. It was a long process with tastings and and rounds and rounds of meetings and then it finally came to life.

2) Indians have more rigid mindsets and veganism as a concept is very alien to Indians, how do you as a brand or as a collaboration plan to bring about a change or propagate the idea of the lifestyle in the minds of Indian consumers?

Sushant: Honestly, the need was always there. The awareness has always been there. People always wanted more options and alternatives and we have to live up to the changing needs and demands and that’s how the idea came through. Globally, we have started inculcating practices that talk about sustainability and carry out practices organically.

As a brand, we embarked on to the journey much earlier and as a consumer when you demand something, we want to deliver. The need for vegan options have always been there and we have been provisions for plant based milk and dairy free products, we just had to come through with food. And if we wouldn’t come through, we would lose a potential customer or an existing customer like Genelia who is looking out for options. And we can never afford to lose a customer.

3) After the pandemic, there was a very conscious change that was brought about in people’s mind about their health and lifestyle, do you think this change was driven because of the constant chatter on social media or just the sense of unpredictability that sort of came along and settled with the pandemic?

Riteish: For us the change came about before the pandemic. There wasn’t much to do with it. But there have been many people who have taken it upon themselves to make the change after the pandemic to keep themselves healthy and not just keep themselves healthy but also the planet healthy. It is the philosophy of brands also, the effects of what you are making and the ripple effects of it. And we are huge fans of Starbucks and they helped us propel what we believed in.

4) Most people start out with veganism with the idea of feeling fit and healthy and moving forward: the sustainability and planet protection bit comes along, what was the turning point for you? What made you switch?

Genelia: Veganism is a lifestyle. You need not just be vegan, you can be a flexitarian. Maybe you can meat or so once a week or twice or week: that’s how you start out. And personally, it’s choice that every consumer works and how it works for them basis that.

When it comes to us, we of course our vegan, for us it’s a lifestyle. And we follow it diligently but for someone who’s looking to start out, they can take baby steps and start out with a once a week, twice a week or so. It’s a choice that everyone takes at a personal level.

Riteish: I agree with this honestly. It can be a flexible choice and work something out that works for you.

Sushant: And what Starbucks has done is that they have made all options available: from vegan, to vegetraian to non-vegetarian which is fantastic and more places need to start adopting that.

5) What’s been the highlight of the collaboration?

Riteish: Starbucks was so good with everything. We went through just 6 months of tasting and everything was done and followed to the T because there are such immense global norms that they need to follow: they want to perfect everything and just give the best, that’s the beauty of it. We were extremely happy to do that and take every single step. It has been a great learning and the highlight has been that that no matter where you reach as a brand: Quality comes first.

Sushant: The one thing that was the highlight for us: was the ease of working and how smoothly it all went through. It was not a compromise in any regard, we spent months and month meeting the due, diligence and quality standards to live up to the customer expectations and brand name. More importantly, it was a true collaboration. It was a collaboration where our values and ideas met. A collaboration with the right kind of people, who are like minded and believe in the same thing on a personal level too and then you know it’s headed in the right direction.

6) Starbucks already has a range of vegan food available, do you want to add and build on to that?

Sushant: It depends on the need, the demand and the response we get on it eventually. As much as we like to expand, explore and branch out, the need for it, the demand for it also plays a very important role. We want to give vegan options to our consumers and we delivered.

7) There are so many other brands, why Imagine Meats?

Sushant: We always wanted to make vegan options available for our consumers and when Riteish and Genelia reached out, we dis trials and processes and it worked. We have a very similar outlook and perspective and it all aligned very well, so here we are!

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