Vegans: do you ever get tired of checking labels for things like whey, casein and gelatin? What a relief it would be to waltz down the aisle picking up all your necessities, never pausing to look at ingredients lists.
Despite East Asia’s bad reputation for animal rights abuses, Taiwan is home to iVegan, one of the first (if not the first) all-vegan supermarkets of its scale. Though it opened in August 2013, it only recently entered our radar thanks to a detailed post on the blog Vegan Taiwan.
iVegan has a lot of the snacky junk foods that excite new vegans, plus familiar dairy replacements like Vegenaise and “Soy Balance” soy margarine. They even have Braggs liquid aminos! It appears that this grocery store imports favorite vegan convenience items from all over the globe, so it’s like a vegan cross between a large Asian supermarket and Whole Foods. And like Whole Foods, they offer a wide selection of fresh produce, baked goods and toiletries, so it is truly a one-stop shopping port for conscious shoppers. The Vegan Taiwan blog has photos of some of the price tags, but knowing nothing about pricing over there I can’t weigh in on how this shop’s prices compare to their average grocery store.
Many US cities and college towns could benefit from a store like this. Sure, there’s the option of buying online from any number of vegan specialty sites, but then you have to wait for delivery and pay a premium. Even for vegetarians and meat eaters, an store like iVegan gives an impressive visual of the diversity available in a diet that most imagine to be oppressive, dull and unsatisfying. And for those who think vegan foods have to be expensive and exotic, point them toward the shelves of peanut butter, jelly and bread. iVegan really shows how much of the “normal” food people eat is cruelty-free, and how easy it is to make classic dishes vegan with a few condiment tweaks and protein substitutions. And for vegans in a rut, one look at those overflowing shelves should inspire new recipes.
The US has several all-vegan grocery stores, but few offer iVegan’s size and variety. Food Fight! in Portland is more of a convenience store specializing in junk food, while Seattle’s Vegan Haven has a vintage independent health food store vibe. Only Santa Monica, Calif.’s Viva La Vegan seems to match iVegan’s offerings, with over 5,000 vegan grocery and hygiene items available. But only the hardest of the hard-core vegans would make a big trip just to shop at the country’s biggest vegan store. Entrepreneurs take note: a one-stop shopping spot for vegans could be just what your town needs!