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Volume IconWill Virat-Anushka endorsement turn the fortunes for plant-based meats?

Plant-based meats have been around in the West for a while. Now celebrities like Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma are helping in its mainstreaming in India. A report on India's plant-based meat market

plant-based meat

The Indian plant-based meat, though still in its nascent stage, is growing fast

Last week, the husband-wife duo of cricketer Virat Kohli and actress Anushka Sharma announced their investment in alternate-meat startup Blue Tribe Foods, while becoming its brand ambassadors at the same time.

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In September last year, another celebrity couple - Ritesh and Genelia Deshmukh, launched their mock meat startup Imagine Meats.
Celebrities are driving local awareness of vegan and plant-based foods, touting their environmental awareness and ethical sourcing of ingredients.
According to the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organisation, the livestock sector plays an important role in climate change. Meat and dairy industries account for 14.5% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions
Over the past few years, India witnessed the emergence of a number of startups that deal in plant-based alternatives to chicken, mutton, fish milk and even eggs.

Some of these are Blue Tribe Foods, GoodDot, Evolved Foods, EVO Foods, Imagine Meats, and Greenest Foods. They largely focus on snack items like nuggets, burgers, sausages and kebabs.

Plant proteins extracted from soybeans, wheat, potato, jackfruit and pulses are mixed with edible oils, starch and seasonings to make plant-based meat substitutes. Other additives help in replicating the colour, texture and taste of animal-based meat.
Though a niche market currently, it has been seeing triple-digit growth.
According to a September 2021 report by Nirmal Bang, India’s plant-based meat market is estimated at $30-40 million, largely driven by consumer packaged food.

In a normal scenario, the report says, the market size is likely to touch $500 million in three years in India.

To understand the need for animal meat alternatives, we spoke to Varun Deshpande. He heads the Good Food Institute India, which promotes the alternative protein sector by serving as an expert body and offers advisory services to companies launching plant-based meat substitutes.

Alternative-meats are also seen as a sustainable protein source in a country like India where 80% of the population is reportedly protein deficient.
While more than 70% of the population is non-vegetarian, India’s per capita meat consumption is one of the world’s lowest at just 4.5 kg, compared to 120 kg in the US and 45 kg in China.
For that reason, most of India’s non-vegetarian population can be referred to as ‘flexitarians’, which means those with a predominantly vegetarian diet with occasional meat consumption.
The flexitarians who also happen to be urban, young, middle class, health-conscious and ethically conscious are fuelling the growth of this market.  
They are the ones who can choose to overlook the high prices as plant-based meats are a lot more expensive than animal meats.
Plant-based meat can take many names - from smart protein and alternative meat to vegetarian meat and mock meat.
GoodDot Co-Founder and CEO Abhishek Sinha spoke about the reasons for the high prices and the performance of his business
In January, ITC became the first FMCG major in India to step foot into this market. The company highlighted that India’s meat market today is estimated at $45 billion, indicating significant growth potential. Despite ITC’s entry, it is still too early to say whether this sector has come of age in India. The industry has a long way to go before it can gain mass-market appeal.

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First Published: Feb 18 2022 | 8:30 AM IST

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