Anastasia Yemelyanova, VegCode founder. Photo courtesy of Sergei Yermokhin and Delovoi Peterburg
A Barcode for Vegans: Petersburgers Develop App for Identifying Vegan Products Through Barcode
December 12, 2018
App Interests a Thousand Users in Single Woeek
Petersburgers Anastasia Yemelyanova, Alyona Kabardinova, and Nikolai Dubrovsky have developed the mobile VegCode app (Vegan IT LLC). Made available to users in early December, the app is designed for vegans. It lets shoppers use barcodes to figure out whether or not items in stores contain animal products and have been animal tested. The app currently has a database of 26,000 items marked “vegan” and “non-vegan.” Most of the items are edibles and cosmetics. Household cleaning products will soon be added to the list.
A Growing Segment
As the designers explained, there is a demand for the app, since the number of vegans in Russia has been growing at a rate of fifty percent annually. There are now approximately 150,000 vegans in Russia.
The team has been preparing to expand the app’s functionality by adding a map of vegan shops, cafes, and producers. The app, which operates in Russia and the CIS, will earn money by advertising the services of these businesses.
“Unlike Western Europe and the US, the problem of identifying vegan goods is much gnarlier in Russia, because there is not a well-defined system for labeling goods and far fewer speciality magazines,” Yemelyanova explains.
For example, you might find a retail item labeled “Lenten,” but it might not be appropriate for vegans. On the other hand, producers sometimes have no clue their product lines include ethical products.
The startuppers commenced work on the app in early 2018. They raised money on the crowdfunding website Planeta. They also made it to the finals of Philtech Accelerator, winning a 100,000-ruble prize from the Higher School of Economics. The team got another 300,000 rubles from venture investor Alexander Rumyantsev.
Yemelyanova says the hardest thing was compiling the database of retail items marked “vegan.”
“We get information about the content of products from open sources. Our users can also add items via the app. After they are moderated, the new items are listed in the database,” a spokesperson for the company said.
In a week’s time, the nearly thousand users who downloaded the app have suggested 4,000 more items for inclusion in the database.
The market for vegan products in Petersburg has been growing rapidly. In 2015, sales were estimated at 80 million rubles [approx. 1 million euros]. In 2017, this figure climbed to 400 million rubles [approx. 5.3 million euros].
Petersburg is also home to a small number of vegan producers. Businessman Ivan Ivanov, for example, makes lactose-free dairy products, wheat steaks, and other edibles under the Primal Soymilk brand. Verde produces cheese and curd. Veganov makes soy and vegetable sausages, while Soymik produces soy-based products.
“Petersburg has the most thriving vegan movement in Russia. The city also has a growing number of vegan producers. Mainly, however, these are small businesses in which not a lot of money has been invested. Their products are usually not sold in retail chains, but I think the day when they’ll be sold there is not far off,” says Ivanov.
Ivanov says he had thought himself about making an app for identifying vegan products.
Translated by the Russian Reader