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How Vegan startups are changing the food landscape – Part 2

How Vegan startups are changing the food landscape – Part 2

In our latest Zista Podcast episode, we revisit the world of vegan startups with Mukeeta Manukulasuriya, co-founder of Jungle Kitchen. Our conversation focuses on the critical aspects that define the success and growth of vegan businesses today.

With Mukeeta, we explore the journey of Jungle Kitchen, from its conception to becoming a beacon for plant-based innovation. We discuss the nuanced approach to product development, market adaptation, and the significance of aligning with consumer preferences for a sustainable lifestyle.

Mukeeta offers actionable advice for emerging entrepreneurs in the vegan sector, highlighting the importance of collaboration, vision, and perseverance.

This episode shines a light on the opportunities and hurdles in the vegan startup landscape, providing valuable insights for anyone aiming to make a positive impact through their business ventures.

Welcome to the continuation of our insightful series, focusing on the evolution of the vegan startup landscape. In this episode, “How Vegan Startups are Changing the Food Landscape: Part 2,” we further explore the significant impact these innovative companies are making in the food industry, emphasizing the journey towards establishing a notable presence in the market.

Joining us once again is Mukeeta Manukulasuriya, the co-founder of Jungle Kitchen, a brand that’s making significant strides in popularizing plant-based eating. Through Jungle Kitchen, Mukeeta is demonstrating the vast potential of vegan cuisine to satisfy our taste buds while also being kind to the planet.

Together, we unpack how vegan startups like Jungle Kitchen are tailoring their offerings to cater to the nuanced tastes and dietary needs across different cultures and communities. It’s a deep dive into the art and science of blending taste with tradition, and how these green ventures are crafting menus that resonate on a global scale.

We also tackle the hurdles and high points of entering new markets, shedding light on the dual challenge of staying true to the vegan ethos while appealing to a broad audience. Mukeeta shares invaluable advice for aspiring food entrepreneurs, emphasizing the essence of vision, adaptability, and the relentless pursuit of quality.

For those with their sights set on planting their own vegan venture, Mukeeta sows seeds of wisdom on the essentials of startup growth, emphasizing the importance of a shared vision and the strength found in community.

Join us on the Zista Podcast for a compelling discussion on how vegan startups like Jungle Kitchen are shaping the future of food, offering healthier, sustainable choices for our tables.


  • Successful vegan startups meticulously tailor their products to local preferences and culinary standards, demonstrating the importance of cultural and taste adaptation in diverse markets.
  • The iterative process of collecting feedback, making adaptations, and refining products is crucial for meeting diverse market needs.
  • Entrepreneurs must have a deep understanding of all aspects of their business, from the technicalities of production to the nuances of market entry, to drive innovation and growth.
  • Assembling a team that aligns with your startup’s values and vision is essential. The process involves learning from mismatches and persistently searching for individuals who contribute positively to the company culture.



Q1: How do companies adapt their products to meet the local tastes and requirements of diverse markets?

A: Mukeeta explains that their primary focus is the Singapore market, renowned for its culinary excellence and variety. Understanding that Singaporeans have easy access to complex, delicious meals, they aimed to match this high standard. Taking the example of Laksa, a dish celebrated for its intricate blend of ingredients and culinary skill, they embarked on a journey to perfect their product. The team, leveraging years of collective experience and extensive feedback from partners and friends, tirelessly refined their recipe until it met their uncompromising standards of excellence. Despite facing setbacks with initial attempts, they persisted in enhancing their understanding of market preferences and flavor profiles. This iterative process of feedback, adaptation, and refinement underpins their approach to meeting the diverse needs and preferences of different markets.


Q2: What challenges and opportunities might a vegan startup face when entering new markets?

A: Mukeeta highlights the perception of vegan products as a significant barrier. Initially, even her friends were skeptical about the viability of a vegan startup, mirroring a common skepticism in broader markets. This skepticism, she points out, is one of the major hurdles for entrepreneurs in the vegan sector. However, Mukeeta believes in the mantra, “don’t knock it till you try it,” advocating for giving vegan products a fair chance. Overcoming these preconceived notions about plant-based products, especially among meat-eaters, is challenging yet essential. The opportunity lies in changing these perceptions by letting consumers experience the products firsthand without biases. Mukeeta’s strategy involved offering samples without initially disclosing they were vegan, often leading to surprise and positive feedback once the truth was revealed. This approach not only demonstrates the potential to overcome barriers but also underscores the importance of confidence in one’s product and the willingness to challenge and change consumer perceptions, making it a crucial strategy for new vegan startups aiming to penetrate and succeed in new markets.


Q3: What essential advice do you have for emerging entrepreneurs aiming to launch their own food-based startups?

A: Mukeeta emphasizes the importance of experimentation and finding one’s passion within the vast culinary landscape. She advises that even minor adjustments can significantly affect the final product, highlighting the need for versatility and open-mindedness in both recipe development and business processes. Understanding every facet of the business, from the management practices and standard operating procedures to the intricacies of manufacturing, is crucial. Mukeeta stresses the value of curiosity and the willingness to learn, including grasping the technicalities of preproduction and machinery. She believes in the power of asking questions, no matter how trivial they may seem. Building a competent team is another cornerstone of her advice; although it may take time and effort to assemble the right group, these individuals will be key to your growth and success. Mukeeta’s guidance underlines that while finding the perfect team doesn’t guarantee immediate success, it provides the necessary momentum to launch and sustain your business.


Q4: How can you effectively assemble, nurture, and retain the ideal team for your startup?

A: Mukeeta shares that building the right team involves a process of trial and error. Initial impressions during interviews can be misleading, leading to mismatches between a candidate’s values and the company’s culture. She recounts an instance where, despite promising interviews, it became apparent over time that some hires were not a good fit. However, persistence paid off when they found a designer whose vision aligned perfectly with theirs, exemplifying the importance of continuous search and evaluation. Mukeeta emphasizes the significance of patience, goal orientation, and adaptability in team building. She believes in the value of learning from each hiring experience, adjusting strategies as necessary, and viewing setbacks not as failures but as lessons to improve future decisions. This approach underlines the importance of being open to making necessary changes for the benefit of the business and maintaining a dynamic and forward-moving attitude to foster a supportive and aligned team environment.


Podcast Host: Amit Ahuja, Associate Director, Communications & Digital, Zista Education
Podcast Guest: Mukeeta Manukulasuriya, Co-founder, Jungle Kitchen
Video & Audio Editing: Raj Soni, Communications Associate, Zista Education
Podcast Manager: Russel Aldridge, Sr. Manager, Creative & Digital, Zista Education
Podcast Transcript: Tanya Kakka, Freelance Copywriter