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Earlier this week it was announced that a new global plant-based collective had formed – pledging $200 million towards ‘transforming the global food industry’ by making vegan meat available to the masses at a new speed and scale.

One of the collective’s key acquisitions was LIVEKINDLY Media – a major online pro-vegan outlet founded by Jodi Monelle (who is CEO) in 2017. Others included South African company The Fry Family Food Co. and German startup LikeMeat.

Notably, the collective – founded by investor Roger Lienhard – chose to name itself the LIVEKINDLY co. in a nod to its media acquisition.

A call to action

“There’s a huge reason behind that,” Jodi Monelle told Plant Based News. “It’s a big reflection of what my team has built over the last three years in terms of community, and in terms of the fact that this is a call to action that a lot of people can relate to.

“Whether you’re vegan or not, a lot of people in the world are seeking out kindness, especially when you’re speaking about the political status of the world and the media in general. There is a lot of negative, fear-mongering content out there, and people are seeking something which can offer them a bit more inspiration and encouragement in their lives.

“And so this is what we’re focused on – sharing positive news. It’s how we can show people that what they are doing has consequences and makes a huge difference, and also creating a space that is completely non-judgemental and focused on solutions.

“Of course, we need to talk about both, but highlighting the solution is something that’s been missing for a very long time when we talk about this movement overall and the impact it can create. And so when people see they are making change, more and more people want to be part of that, because they can see the impact they are creating.”

Supporting all plant-based brands

A question raised by food outlet The Spoon about the collective was whether LIVEKINDLY Media will be able to retain its independence while being part of a coalition with food brands.

Monelle confirmed that LIVEKINDLY will indeed continue to operate as a fully-independent media company.

She added: “We’ll continue to support every plant-based and vegan company out there because it’s important to us that we’re driving this movement forward. It’s not about alliances with certain brands, it’s very much an ethical journey and mission for everyone involved in my team.”

Grassroots and corporate

The LIVEKINDLY co. is led by a team of industry specialists. Working alongside Monelle is Chairman & CEO Kees Kruythoff (formerly President Unilever North America and Global Home Care Division), CMO Mick Van Ettinger (formerly of Unilever), COO and Chief R&D Officer Aldo Uva (formerly of Nestle, Firmenich, and Ferrero). Founder Roger Lienhard is also founder of Blue Horizon Corporation.

Collaborating with those with backgrounds of working for global corporations is something Monelle thought seriously about going into the collective. “I believe the next year will be a reflection of how grassroots startups can work with people who come from a very corporate background,” she said.

“Obviously, we want to be completely transparent and say that a lot of people coming on board have worked at Unilever. This was something we wanted to make sure we were completely comfortable with, and we had a lot of questions.”

One of the LIVEKINDLY co.’s acquisitions from South African vegan meat firm Fry’s (Photos: Fry’s)
One of the LIVEKINDLY co.’s acquisitions from South African vegan meat firm Fry’s (Photos: Fry’s)

Due diligence

Monelle said speaking one-to-one with these people, gauging how mission-aligned they are, as well as whether as they are vegans or allies to the movement was a crucial part of her due diligence.

She added: “That is really what sealed the deal for me: knowing that I’m working with people who truly understand the importance of the future of the planet, the ethical evolution of human, and how we need a force with impact and money like this to be able to create systematic change.

“The association with big brands is always going to be something that people will be concerned about. But we did our due diligence and recognized it’s important to collaborate with people with that kind of network, that kind of experience and, that ability to really influence change within a system. This is what the movement needs.”

Values

The scale of this operation (which took a year of negotiating to put together) means Monelle is spearheading steps to ensure that at the heart of the LIVEKINDLY co. remains honesty and integrity, which she described as the company’s main values.

She revealed: “One of the things we have decided, so we retain our integrity internally as we make our next steps, is to grow a social mission board. We’ll be focussed on making sure our values as a company are always met internally and externally. So we’ll be building a culture and community very much around the four pillars we have on the website (to be honest, inclusive, mindful, and bold).”

Speed

Perhaps if LIVEKINDLY were to add a fifth pillar, it would be speed. Monelle is highly cognizant of the need for change, and quickly.

She said: “It’s all about impact, being bold, doing this at the speed we need to do it, this is what the movement needs. It’s all well and good to see more vegan products on the market, but at this point, we need to have more accessibility, and more choice. We can’t do it fast enough, because our planet, our health, our one consciousness is at jeopardy if we don’t do anything about it now.”

While the LIVEKINDLY co. management team will work together bringing the vision of vegan food to the masses at a speed and scale not yet reached, LIVEKINDLY Media will also work on expanding its reach.

“We are in a creative process now, we have a lot of ideas, and with the acquisition, we have a lot more resources to play with,” she said. “So you can expect a greater amount of higher-quality content coming from us over the next few months. At this stage, we are defining where our strategy is and how we create the biggest impact using our platform and using our voice so I would say ‘watch this space’.”

Circular business

What she can say for sure right now, is that her ambitions are huge.

“We want to go big with this,” she confirmed. “The beautiful thing is that we are operating as a circular business now; it’s not only being a voice for education and community, it’s about being able to provide solutions in terms of products and service as the secondary part of that.

“So, I’m very excited to see how that evolves. We’re not going to be shy. We must do this with the biggest voice and impact possible.”

Maria Chiorando

Maria is the editor of Plant Based News. As a former magazine editor, newspaper reporter, and features writer, her work has been published by The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and various regional newspapers, as well as Vegan Life magazine and Vegan Trade Journal. She has interviewed a huge range of people, from Prime Ministers to authors, activists, pop stars and actors, and enjoys the varied range of topics writing for PBN allows her to tackle.