Thirty-three year old Firmansyah Mastup decided to quit his stable job as a regional sales manager at a cooking equipment company during the pandemic in 2020. It was only a short time, but since then, he has focused on being a vegetarian diet. entrepreneurs and haven’t looked back.
Together with co-founders Revo Manaroinsong and Arvin Budi, Firman opened Mad Grass earlier this year. Describes itself as “Indonesia’s first plant-based” [collaboration]”, Mad Grass is a cloud kitchen – a delivery-only restaurant – for 10 plant-based food tenants around Jakarta. Hub Mad Grass is located on an area of 600 square meters in Cipete, South Jakarta.
“We feel the demand [for plant-based food],” said Firman, who became vegan in 2017. This means that not only does he avoid eating animal meat as a vegetarian would, he also avoids any products that involve animals in their manufacture, such as certain types of clothing, laundry materials and foods such as milk. and cheese. For the purposes of this article and because of their fluid nature of vegetarianism and veganism, interviewees will be referred to as vegetarians.
Vegetarian business: Firmansayah Mastup is the co-founder of a cloud kitchen start-up called Mad Grass. (JP/Courtesy of Andaris Dikarina)
Consumer behavior in the pandemic era who stays at home and orders food to be delivered makes the cloud kitchen concept a logical and promising business model.
Firman and Mad Grass friends helped develop menus for their partner tenants. They ensure that every business will serve a wide variety of vegan food and drinks – from soy lattes to vegan geprek “chicken” rice (rice with crushed mushroom based “chicken”). The price of these meals generally ranges from IDR 25,000 (US$1.72) to IDR 45,000.
Also read: What’s On Your Plate? A glimpse of making a vegan
Firman and his investors became very aware of the promising nature of the vegan lifestyle after seeing the popularity of the 2008 film Food Problem and Netflix Game Changer, which focuses on nutritious food and promoting a healthy lifestyle.
“That’s why this documentary is so helpful. It can be a door for people to learn more about veganism,” said Firman, who also launched a vegan news site, the Jakarta Vegan Guide.
But Firman knows that the company’s primary customers are limited to class AB shoppers who have developed an awareness of a healthier lifestyle and, more importantly, have the financial privilege of maintaining a certain diet.
“[Our market consists of] people who are in a stable financial position or at least have their own jobs. Or even high school students who have an established life,” said Firman.
He says his mission is to expose more people to veganism. He envisions Mad Grass not only being a hub for vegetarian food tenants looking for good business, but also a collaborative space for health food creators and a vegan education center. The plan is that the space will eventually hold regular workshops on vegetarian food.
Green food: Mad Grass is a plant-based cloud kitchen located in Cipete, South Jakarta. (JP/Courtesy of Andaris Dikarina)
She says the best way to do this is to get non-vegetarians to try healthy foods — and hopefully get interested.
“We want to educate people about veganism in a different way. When you talk about food, it’s like speaking a different language. You eat, and if you like, that’s it. I want to promote veganism through affordable, delicious and accessible food. ,” she says.
A Euromonitor International survey from 2018 found that Indonesia is the country with the third highest growth rate of vegetarianism. The study found that middle-upper-class urban Indonesians were moving towards a healthier plant-based diet and only occasionally sacrificed that diet for meat.
Also read: Padang vegan restaurant: ‘Blame’ or a better choice?
Global warming and franchise awareness
Susianto Tseng, a medical doctor and president of the Indonesian Vegetarian Society and the Indonesian Vegan Society (IVS-VSI), said that people are becoming more aware of how industrial livestock production affects global warming. This has turned many people towards a non-meat diet.
Food companies are also aware of health food trends. Brands such as Abuba Steak and Pepper Lunch are reportedly working with Indonesian start-up Green Rebel, which makes products such as meat from shiitake mushrooms and soy protein.
A Promising Market: Susianto Tseng, a medical doctor and president of the Indonesian Vegetarian Society and Indonesian Vegan Society (IVS-VSI), has noted the growth of the plant-based food market in Indonesia. (JP/Courtesy Dr. Susianto Tseng)
In May this year, Burger King Indonesia launched a meatless Whopper using soy-based buns.
Susianto said the food industry has noticed an increase in vegetarian consumers.
“When we founded IVS in 1998, we took a national survey which showed there were around 50 vegetarian restaurants in Indonesia, but in 2017, there were more than 1,000 restaurants,” he said.
Food manufacturers have also stepped up efforts to ensure the quality of their vegan products, said Susianto. Many have started registering their vegan products with IVS, which has been responsible for issuing vegan certifications since 2018.
Diana, an employee at a beauty products company who went vegan in 2018, says finding healthy food is now easy and most of the time affordable.
“Now I can find a variety of vegan menus for only IDR 30,000 to IDR 40,000,” he said.
Also read: Light fun being vegan
Firman knows that total change is still far away, but he is happy that the transformation has already happened
“We can see the switch [to vegetarianism], but soon enough, you’ll see, this will become the norm.”