Re-thinking the term 'competitor' in a vegan business.

I often get asked what I think of the rising amount of vegan cheese companies that have been started in the last 5 years. My response has always been the same...

...I welcome them.

It may seem strange to hear that a company welcomes its competitors but in my opinion, it depends on whether or not you view them as competitors. Now, this statement sounds extremely narcissistic I know, and this is due to the traditionally used term 'competitor'. Let me explain.

The term competitor generally means 'another company offering the same or similar products/services to customers in your market.' In this sense, we do indeed have some strong competitors, so many vegan cheese companies offering really amazing products have surfaced in the last few years, but I still don't call them competitors! WHY?

The term 'competitors' suggests we are competing for something, which ultimately in business would be market share, a very profit focused viewpoint. Now, although we are a business and we do aim to make a profit, this is not our main goal. As the rise in veganism continues across the UK and across the World, we must ask ourselves, "Are we a business focussed on profit as the bottom line or is our focus on something greater?"

Thinking in relatively small terms such as turnover and profit is perfect if your bottom line is making as much profit as possible. However, when you shift to a more wider view of promoting veganism and helping people in the world transition to vegan products, the term 'competitor' seems somewhat obsolete to me.

Competitors are generally two or more people or businesses working against each other towards achieving an end goal. Why, if we as vegan businesses are indeed focused on the wider goals of promoting veganism, advocating animal rights and climate change among many others, would we want to work against other people and companies that will help us achieve this goal?

It seems almost egotistical to think of all of the other vegan cheese companies in the UK as competitors to ourselves. Thinking logically, there's simply no way we would be able to cater for every single vegan cheese requirement, for every single current and new vegan person, plus every person who is lactose-intolerant, or simply just wants to cut down on dairy, not to mention all of the vegan and non-vegan businesses now offering vegan options requiring vegan cheese. To think we could cater for this would be simply ridiculous, but the demand is there and the bottom line is, we need help!

So, I like to think of the other vegan cheese companies more as colleagues instead of competitors. We're working towards the goal of a rise in veganism, the increased accessibility of vegan products and better options for those wanting to cut down or cut out dairy cheese. I welcome any and all help in achieving this goal and I will simply never use the term competitor in relation to our fellow vegan businesses.

Our competitors are everyone else! The dairy industry, the meat industry, the entire animal agriculture industry, those in it to make a quick buck who care nothing of our planet, who simply saw a profitable market and exploited it; these are the people and businesses we are competing against!

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