Eeva and Madis run a brand RoheValik, an online vegan shop, that has a variety of food products and everyday goods. They reflect, among other things, on what is veganism for them, what were the reasons establishing the brand and what does sustainable living mean to them.
Eeva and Madis, how do you define yourselves?
We’re people who love life, good food and wish to treat ourselves, our bodies and those around us as well as we can. We’ve understood from an early age that health is extremely important, thus have decided to treat our bodies well in order to be able to function well as long as possible — this is the mindset and lifestyle we promote to others as well. In the end, each person chooses for themselves but we do our part by guiding people and providing information on why we prefer whole foods, organic foods and a plant-based diet.
What is veganism for you?
Sustainable living is not just about treating ourselves well but it’s also about making sure our planet is still liveable in years to come and that nature still has a place in it. We’re both big into nature: love to hike, to ground ourselves in nature, and thus, if we can do something to help preserve it, we will.
Our stories and backgrounds are quite different. Madis has been a vegan about seven years now: he had a rough period in his life and had felt quite depressed for a while. One day he was walking in nature and the thought just somehow came to him that he did not wish to eat meat or animal products anymore. He didn’t think of it as being vegan as the term wasn’t that well-known for him back then but he just felt that there was already enough cruelty in this world and he didn’t want to add on to that.
For Eeva it was different: she had never been much of a meat lover but did eat it occasionally and consumed dairy, eggs, and a lot. She met Madis about two years ago and firstly, it was out of respect for him that she didn’t consume animal products either. When we moved in together it became a bit more of an internal battle as she hadn’t really thought about animal suffering or what it meant to be vegan at all and thus didn’t acknowledge the topic enough to wish to make the switch herself. She didn’t consume animal products but would also not want to identify herself as a vegan, it just didn’t feel right — mostly due to all the misinformation and negative information there’s out there.
However, she slowly started to research the information, reasoning behind it herself and the more she did that, the more sense it made to her. It was an easy transition nutrition-wise but not an easy in regards with mentality. The main takeaway from that for us both was that each person needs to find their own way and forcing or blaming someone will not work. This path is easiest taken when guided by love, information and patience.
How did you get into food business and what were your reasons being establishing the RoheValik? Also, what does the RoheValik do?
We’re both traveling a lot and lived mostly abroad before the coronavirus started. When there, the choice for what to eat was so much wider, prices generally cheaper and people also more knowledgeable on what veganism actually is. When we got back to Estonia, we both felt that we’re tired of overpaying for low quality food that the supermarkets or some online stores generally provided, so started to do research for alternative means first primarily for ourselves.
Somewhere along the way the thought came that there are likely others who could benefit from this as well. Online stores were just so overpriced and products often not that great so we figured that the demand must be there. It was also very exciting as we’ve dreamt of running our own small business for a while and this “downtime” actually felt like the best opportunity to start.
We figured that if it doesn’t work out, we’ll end up with a bunch of food we’d want to consume ourselves anyway, and if it does — the sky is the limit!
RoheValik sells all kinds of interesting snacks that have not been available in the Estonian market until now. We’re also offering a variety of nuts, seeds, flours — the staples! On top of that, one can find the so called superfoods, all kinds of spreads and many different kinds of plant proteins. Both of us are very much into fitness, have been taking plant-based protein powders for a long time and still hear the myth that vegans cannot get enough protein or grow muscles. We wish to promote plant-based proteins and show that these are just as good.
On top of everything edible, we’ve recently launched everyday goods. Our first products are bamboo tooth brushes. These are 100% biodegradable. We’ve also added small hand written positive messages on these to make the start and end of each day more positive for anyone using these.
The most difficult part so far has been to figure out how to establish ourselves in the market. We know we’re offering great products at a great price but neither of us are really marketing specialists so it’s been fun to learn all kinds of tools and techniques to use. Most of it, we’re still figuring out but the whole journey has been empowering. We are doing what we love, selling products that we actually care for and this is the best feeling! We’re only at the very beginning but we’ve already had chats with some customers, gotten to know some of them better and this is extremely valuable both for us as a business but also for us as people learning about the lives of others with a similar mindset.
The RoheValik’s selection can be described as “green, organic, vegan, bio, ecological and healthy”. What do they mean to you in your daily life?
All of these describe our lifestyle! We’re both focused on living the best life we can and having our bodies function well even in old age. No one can predict the future but we can control what we put into our bodies and we wish to give it only the best fuel.
The same goes for everything else around us: we’re trying to live in a way that our environment doesn’t suffer due to our actions and thus, we recycle, do not litter, reuse water bottles, take our own shopping bag to the store, use a bamboo tooth brush etc. There are all these small things anyone can do to be a bit kinder to the planet.
This is our natural lifestyle and thus, these have become the keywords for RoheValik as well. It’s not to be “hip” or “trendy” but instead, we go for authenticity. This is how we live, what we eat and the articles we write and promote are all what we believe in.
Where and how do you source your products from?
The sourcing process depends on the product but the main criteria is that this must be something that we ourselves would want to eat and would offer to our family and friends as well.
The majority of nuts/seeds/flours are organic as we don’t wish to have traces of pesticides in our staple food nor support the growing of that food to harm the environment it was grown at. Thus, we only use partners whose goods can be certified to be organic and definitely have no child labor.
We also aim to avoid sourcing the food from China as the laws regarding what is and isn’t organic and how food is grown, are very lax there. For all kinds of snacks we also prefer organic goods but also wish to offer our clients a variety of products that have not been available to the local market before. We seek out popular products we ourselves have enjoyed and that we believe many others would love to try out. The main aim here is to show that plant based food can be fun, delicious and most of all, that it has a lot of variety.
Lastly, of course all of our products must be 100% plant based.
What do you see for the future of vegan products?
We’re positive this is all just the beginning. More and more people are turning away from a solely meat based diet — either for ethical, environmental or health-based reasons. The vegan meat and dairy alternative industries are certain to be gaining a much wider market share than they currently hold. As new technologies develop, the food is likely also to develop. It’s possible vegan meat alternatives will one day be identical to animal meat for it’s taste and texture which will hopefully eliminate the need for animal farming altogether. Fingers crossed!
What kind of impact do you aim to achieve with RoheValik?
We aim to show to people that plant-based food is as nutritious and delicious as any other diet and that there is no need to believe otherwise. Also, nutritious plant-based food is not as expensive as the myth states. It’s important to learn to look at the per kilogram prices for different foods as well as learn about the nutritional values of foods when making choices what and from where to buy.
People in a supermarket so often fall into the trap of going for the cheapest package not noticing that it’s actually way more expensive per kilogram or that perhaps it’s actually only 10% of what it claims to be. (an example of “carrot juice” being mostly apple juice and just 10% carrots). This is something we wish to educate on as well so that people could make smarter financial decisions when shopping.
What can non-human persons teach us?
Animals teach us a lot about taking only what is needed — they only consume what they have to and that’s it (unless it’s perhaps an overfed pet, but that’s when humans have already interfered). This is so beautiful as it shows we can actually all coexist sustainably should we all decide to live by that principle.
Animals also teach us about compassion and unconditional acceptance. It doesn’t matter who you are and what you sound or look like — as long as you treat an animal well, they will like you. This is something that us humans should adopt as well. If a person treats us right, we should have no prejudices against them. If a person doesn’t treat us right, we should not tolerate that and leave.
What’s next up for you?
Sky is the limit! As long as we still believe in what we do and get positive feedback from our customers, we believe we’re only going to keep on expanding. We’ve been adding new products almost daily since we started and are currently working on creating a foolproof stocking system.
If we continue to get good feedback and still love it, we’d love to get into retail and possibly open up a store of our own in the future. We have so many ideas for great products that we’d love to share and hopefully we’ll get to do that.