Photo: Felices Las Vacas
Argentina is the world's largest consumer of meat per capita. However, partly because of the high price of beef, many Argentinians have started looking for vegan dining options. A survey conducted by the Institute for the Promotion of Beef found that 60 percent of Argentinians are considering or have considered going vegan due to rising meat prices. Felices Las Vacas is riding on this plant-based wave. This Argentinian brand is producing highly-regarded vegan products that are affordable and animal-friendly.
Roberto Cantoli and Gastón Luque started Felices Las Vacas in 2014. Felices Las Vacas means happy cows. Its mission is to facilitate and destigmatize veganism as a way of life.
Today, they make over 40 plant-based products. Their Mozzarella and Le Choc were awarded the best vegan cheese and chocolate in the world, respectively, by abillion’s members last year. In fact, Felices Las Vacas emerged as a winner across most dairy alternative categories.
abillion spoke to Roberto Cantoli, cofounder of Felices Las Vacas, about the brand and its future offerings.
Tell us about your vegan journey. Why did you go vegan?
In 2013, my business partner Gaston and I started a traditional restaurant in Uruguay. That restaurant did not take off as we expected. On the last day, our refrigeration system broke and we found ourselves throwing away all the meat and fish. That’s when I realized the pain of these animals we had just thrown away. This incident changed my life forever, forcing me to go vegan and take on a mission to help end animal exploitation.
What is the story behind Felices Las Vacas?
I wanted to give a more productive meaning to my activism for animals—to be an activist beyond phrases and social media. On a road trip, while drinking mate, a traditional herbal tea popular in South America, and watching the cows in the fields through the car window, Gaston and I decided to do something big for the animals.
We commissioned machines to make nut milk without having any experience in this field. Our first investment was USD $22,000 for the machines that would take 5 months to arrive. Thus began our journey to produce the best and tastiest plant-based products without compromising animal life.
Photo: Felices Las Vacas
What was your journey like in the last 8 years?
Our journey was not an easy one, but we believed we could make a change and create an impact. We started with semi-industrial tools and semi-homemade products with loads of trial and error. We had no prior knowledge of plant-based food, but we hired professionals who could help us achieve our dreams. We trained ourselves to make the best plant-based product after a lot of experimentation.
Today, we have 40 products ranging from milk, yogurts, hard and semi-hard cheeses, spreads, alfajores, and chocolates. The most recent are alternative meat, an area in which we are pioneers in Argentina.
We want to destigmatize veganism as a lifestyle and give people products that are rich and tasty. We aim to ensure that people do not have to sacrifice taste to switch to a plant-based diet. We are motivated by this thought that we can deliver tasty plant-based products ingrained in the palate of our culture.
What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
Every day is a challenge. I remember at the beginning, when we came out with "Dulce de leche de Almendras," a traditional Argentine food, we received anonymous complaints from people who did not believe that the products were actually vegan. We were also criticized for it. We soon realized that people like their traditional food as they are. So, after many experiments, we got the right taste and texture without adding meat and dairy. Another challenge we faced at the beginning was the cold distribution. We partnered with a distribution company, becoming the only company in Argentina that manufactures plant-based products and distributes in cold-chain throughout the national territory.
Which are your hero products?
Our mozzarella cheese is a unique product in the market with great acceptance by non-vegan consumers. Also, the alfajores made with our “Dulce de Leche de Almendras” (Almond milk caramel) are our strength.
What is your favorite product from Felicas Las Vacas?
My favorites are the cheeses called "questañas," of which we have 5 flavors. They’re made from cashew nuts, coconut oil, nutritional yeast and different spices. I developed this product in the beginning. It’s raw vegan, fermented and has probiotics. It achieves a natural acidity combined with chestnuts. It is very special to me.