+91-22-61064600 | info@zistaeducation.com

How Vegan startups are changing the food landscape

How Vegan startups are changing the food landscape

In this latest Zista episode, we explore the world of vegan startups, with Mukeeta Manukulasuriya, co-founder of Jungle Kitchen. Our conversation with Mukeeta spans a range of topics that are at the heart of the vegan startup ecosystem.

Through our conversation with Mukeeta, we gain insights into the challenges and successes of running a vegan startup, the strategic decisions behind their product development, and the impact their work is having on promoting a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle.

Mukeeta also shares advice for aspiring entrepreneurs in the vegan sector, emphasizing the importance of collaboration and vision.

It’s a candid look at the challenges and opportunities in the vegan startup space, offering valuable perspectives for anyone looking to make their mark.

In the latest episode of the Zista Podcast, we’re zeroing in on a topic that’s reshaping the food industry: the rise of vegan startups. It’s a fascinating space where innovation meets sustainability, and we’re taking you right into the heart of it with Mukeeta Manukulasuriya, the co-founder of Jungle Kitchen. Jungle Kitchen is making waves in the vegan world, demonstrating that plant-based eating is not just a trend but a lifestyle choice growing in popularity and impact.

Our discussion with Mukeeta is rich and varied, starting with the origins of Jungle Kitchen and the vision that propels its growth. We examine the global footprint of their products and the impact they aim to have within the broader food ecosystem. It’s an engaging look at how enterprises like Jungle Kitchen are leading by example, demonstrating that business success and ethical practices can go hand in hand.

We also cover the operational and strategic aspects of running a vegan startup, touching on the unique advantages these businesses provide to those looking for healthier and more eco-friendly dietary options. Mukeeta takes us through the journey of bringing new products to market at Jungle Kitchen, from ideation to consumer feedback, highlighting both the triumphs and challenges faced along the way. Special attention is given to their standout products, which have not only won over consumers but also significantly boosted the brand’s market presence.

For the entrepreneurial spirits drawn to the vegan sector, Mukeeta dispenses invaluable advice on the essentials of founding a startup, emphasizing the role of collaboration and shared vision.

Join us on the Zista Podcast as we uncover how initiatives like Jungle Kitchen are making a significant impact, one plant-based meal at a time.


  • The emphasis on sustainability and ethical sourcing practices, such as partnering with smallholder farms, reflects a critical trend in the vegan industry. Consumers increasingly demand transparency and sustainability in their food sources, driving businesses to adopt more responsible practices.
  • The development process of vegan products, involving extensive taste testing and feedback, highlights the importance of consumer engagement. This approach ensures products meet market demands and preferences, a critical factor for success in the competitive food industry.
  • Engage with your audience early and often. Consumer feedback is invaluable for refining product offerings and ensuring they meet the market’s taste and quality expectations.
  • Offering a diverse and versatile product range can attract a wider audience. Products that cater to different culinary preferences and uses can help penetrate various segments of the vegan market.



Q1. What inspired the creation of Jungle Kitchen?

A: Mukeeta recalls a story from her grandmother’s era in 1948. As a busy mother and teacher, her grandmother innovated by starting a small factory on the outskirts of Colombo, Sri Lanka, to produce convenient Sri Lankan products. This pioneering effort laid the foundation for a business that was later handed down to Mukeeta’s mother and eventually to Mukeeta herself. Jungle Kitchen prides itself on being a female-founded company, employing a workforce predominantly comprised of women. Mukeeta’s partnership with Surya, who shares her passion for food and comes from a tropical background, was a pivotal moment. Together, they identified a market need for high-quality, sustainably sourced tropical ingredients presented in an accessible way. Their goal was to celebrate and share their rich heritage, recipes, and the diverse flavors of their region while highlighting the importance of community and the remarkable qualities of their indigenous ingredients.


Q2. What markets do Jungle Kitchen products currently reach?

A: Mukeeta explains that, as of now, Jungle Kitchen’s products are primarily available in Singapore, their main market, especially since their launch in April last year. Their immediate focus has been on solidifying their presence within Singapore. However, they have ambitious plans to expand their reach to Western markets, aiming to introduce their products in the US and Europe. Mukeeta also shares exciting news that Jungle Kitchen products are expected to be available in cold storages within the next month, further increasing their availability to consumers in Singapore.


Q3. What advantages do vegan startups offer to both consumers and businesses?

A: Mukeeta highlights that the benefits of their products are deeply rooted in community engagement and sustainability. Their primary aim is to make high-quality, nutritious, and sustainable ingredients more accessible. This commitment extends to their collaboration with smallholder farms, which have been integral to their operations for generations. By expanding alongside these farms, Jungle Kitchen aims to enhance their supply chain and integrate new farmers who share their values, emphasizing the importance of sourcing and sharing unique, indigenous ingredients. A noteworthy aspect of their offerings is that they are inherently vegan, a reflection of the traditional diets in their region, which are naturally plant-based. This alignment with vegan principles is not just a business choice but a mission to encourage a broader adoption of vegan-friendly options in people’s diets, enriching them with diversity, healthfulness, and sustainability. For consumers and businesses alike, Jungle Kitchen’s approach showcases the simplicity of incorporating more plant-based foods into daily meals, offering products free from preservatives and artificial additives — straight from the jungle to your table.


Q4. How did Jungle Kitchen develop its unique product flavors?

A: Mukeeta describes the product development process at Jungle Kitchen as a journey filled with trial and error, deeply influenced by the diverse culinary backgrounds of its founders. Both Mukeeta and her co-founder Surya, being avid food enthusiasts from Sri Lanka and Singapore respectively, have explored various cuisines through their travels. Their goal was to craft flavors that resonate with a wide audience while paying close attention to regional tastes, such as the preference for tangy and spicy flavors in Singapore. The research and development phase involved extensive taste testing with friends, chefs, and gathering recipes from family members to ensure authenticity and appeal. The aim was to evoke a sense of home and familiarity through their products, creating flavors that are not only delicious but meaningful. Adjustments were made to their product lineup based on consumer feedback, highlighting the importance of external opinions in refining their offerings. Mukeeta emphasizes the necessity of balancing personal judgement with diverse taste preferences to achieve a product range that truly resonates with their target market.


Q5. What inspired Jungle Kitchen’s brand imagery, and how was it developed?

A: Mukeeta explains that the inspiration behind Jungle Kitchen’s brand imagery originated from natural history illustrations, aiming to capture the essence of the tropical world’s rich heritage and biodiversity. The journey to realizing this vision involved considerable trial and error, including the challenge of finding designers capable of bringing their unique concept to life. Many of the ingredients central to Jungle Kitchen’s products are not commonly found in natural history or botanical books, necessitating a creative approach to design. After numerous iterations of the label, they successfully crafted imagery that resonated with the brand’s identity, effectively highlighting the exotic ingredients and embodying the historical and cultural significance of the tropical regions they represent. This process underscored the importance of perseverance and collaboration in achieving a design that connects with the brand’s ethos and appeals to consumers.


Q6. Which Jungle Kitchen products are the most popular among consumers?


A: Mukeeta highlights two standout products from Jungle Kitchen that have garnered significant consumer attention and sales: the Jungle Jack Masala and the Spiced Pineapple Chunks. The Jungle Jack Masala, featuring jack seed—a less commonly used ingredient in everyday cooking—is celebrated for its unique take on traditional masala, blending it with an Indian-inspired mix. This innovative approach has made it a favorite among consumers, offering a new twist on familiar flavors. The Spiced Pineapple Chunks, on the other hand, are praised for their versatility, finding their way into a variety of dishes from cheese boards and Poké bowls to traditional rice and curry meals, burgers, or even as a standalone snack with crackers. These products stand out for their ability to enhance a wide range of dishes, showcasing Jungle Kitchen’s commitment to creating versatile, flavorful products that resonate with consumers’ diverse tastes and culinary preferences.


Q7. Is Jungle Kitchen planning to launch an online marketplace for global shipping?

A: Mukeeta confirms that expanding Jungle Kitchen’s reach through worldwide shipping is a primary objective, with plans to establish an online marketplace as a key strategy for achieving this goal. They are considering partnering with Amazon to facilitate global access to their products, recognizing the platform’s capability to simplify logistics and streamline the shipping process. This collaboration would enable Jungle Kitchen to reach a broader audience by making their products available to customers worldwide. In addition to Amazon, they are exploring partnerships with other logistics providers to offer direct shipping options. The challenge of determining shipping costs has been a hurdle, but leveraging Amazon’s infrastructure is seen as an effective solution to overcome this barrier. Ultimately, Jungle Kitchen’s aim is to share their unique flavors and products with a global audience, making their offerings accessible to food enthusiasts everywhere.


Q8. What advice do you have for aspiring vegan startup founders, and how important is having a co-founder?

A: Mukeeta emphasizes the value of collaboration and complementary skills in the context of founding a vegan startup. Drawing from her own experience, she highlights the beneficial mix of talents and perspectives she and her co-founder Surya brought to Jungle Kitchen. The synergy between them, combined with the culinary expertise of Mukeeta’s mother, greatly contributed to the product development phase, making the process of flavor testing and refinement more robust and effective. Mukeeta believes that having a co-founder can significantly ease the entrepreneurial journey by providing mutual support, accountability, and a shared vision. This partnership allowed them to leverage their individual strengths, enhancing the brand’s development and ability to overcome challenges. Her advice to those considering launching their own venture is to find a co-founder who complements their skills and vision, as this can be crucial for navigating the complexities of starting and growing a business, especially in the vegan market. Sharing both the successes and obstacles with a co-founder can provide a balanced perspective and emotional support, which is invaluable in the demanding world of startups.


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