Meat Without Guilt: The New Mantra For Millennials?

GoodDot, Shaka Harry, Wakao Foods, Blue Tribe, Burger Buddy, Vegan Meri Jaan, Evo Foods, Oh Veg, The Vegetarian Butcher and Imagine Meats are some of the startups offering meat alternatives in India

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The pandemic has made most of us prioritize two things. One, taking care of our health, two, contributing towards nature conservation. For many, especially millennials and GenZ, opting for plant-based meat alternatives is a step towards both. Since the last few years, we have seen the rise of many startups offering plant-based products such as GoodDot, Shaka Harry, Wakao Foods, Blue Tribe, Burger Buddy, Vegan Meri Jaan, Evo Foods, Oh Veg, Vegetarian Butcher and Imagine Meats founded by Riteish and Genelia Deshmukh. The pandemic has further accelerated growth in the space. 

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“Globally, most countries now are actively looking for solutions to mitigate climate change impact and reducing meat consumption is right amongst their top priorities, along with switching to cleaner energy and transport,” said Sandeep Singh, co-founder of Blue Tribe. Some popular names in the space include BeyondMeat, Impossible Foods and Amy’s Kitchen. 

Riteish Deshmukh, co-founder, Imagine Meats agrees. "Globally, people are turning to plant-based meats for various reasons – some for health, some are curious and some are doing so for ethical reasons. While plant-based meat is a rage in international markets that are looking at reducing the carbon footprint linked to animal farming, it is also steadily gaining ground in India," he said. 

According to MarketsandMarkets report, the global plant-based protein market size was valued at $10.3 billion in 2020 to $15.6 billion by 2026, recording a CAGR of 7.2 per cent during the forecast period. This is attributed to the growing usage of pea protein in the food industry and innovation in the technologies used for the extraction of plant-based protein, says the report. 

“Shifting to a plant-based diet can lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions, efficient use of land, water and other natural resources, and people have become aware of it. On top of that, since plant-based food is healthier, more and more people are willing to make it a part of their diets. Substituting one out of four non-vegetarian meals with plant-based foods can have a great impact on health and the planet,” said Anoop Haridasan, co-founder, Shaka Harry, a Bengaluru-based startup launched in October 2020. 

New Business Models And Trends

Most startups in the space work on three to six business models, including Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) format, HoReCa model, that is tie-ups with hotels and cafes, B2B, selling through online marketplaces like Flipkart, Amazon,  offline retail tie-ups with general trade and modern trade and exports. 

As the space sees an uptick in the number of users, plant-based products from different parts of the world, such as BeyondMeat are also entering the Indian market. However, at the moment, they are not very price-sensitive as compared to products offered by Indian startups.

Indian startups are also giving an Indian twist to this western trend. "While bringing this segment of food to India we realized that India is not so much of a burger-eating nation. We love our keemas and kebabs. Hence, this is a relatively new category in India and there is a need to create awareness and educate people about this. However, the company spent time on research and product development to ensure that the product texture and taste are like meat. Just like conventional meat, these next-gen plant-based options are composed of proteins, vitamins, minerals, water, and fat, and offer complex carbs and fibre – alongside replicating the taste, texture, and experience of meat-eating," said Genelia Deshmukh, co-founder, Imagine Meats. 

Further, many startups are also providing ingredients and solutions for fulfilling B2B commitments. However, with the rise in D2C, we are seeing more brands making headways in the D2C space, such as Wakao foods, which has sold to more than 10,000 D2C customers in less than 10 months.

Today, there is also today an increased demand for ready-to-cook plant alternatives. For instance, Shaka Harry offers ready-to-cook meaty snacks and meals made completely from plants such as chicken nuggets, mutton samosa, chicken shammi kebabs, mutton seekh kebab, mutton keema, among others. Udaipur-based GoodDot, launched in 2016, offers plant-based alternatives to mutton, chicken, and egg. They come in ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat formats like chunks of plant-based mutton and chicken, biryani, tikkas, curries, keema, etc.

“Additionally, we are witnessing more and more players entering into different spaces of alternatives. This includes players coming up with alternatives of mutton, chicken, fish, egg, milk, etc.  Many hotel and restaurant chains are incorporating plant-based meat products in their menu,” said Abhishek Sinha, founder, GoodDot. 

India is also witnessing an increased interest in fermentation and cell-based technologies for the alternative protein space. “The plant-based meat space is looking to follow a similar trend as the plant-based dairy industry did a few years ago. There are a bunch of interesting products now entering the market, both in a ready-to-eat as well as frozen format. There are also brilliant minds working on providing alternatives to other animal products like eggs,” said Sandeep Singh, co-founder of Blue Tribe. 

Awareness, A Challenge

The creation of pan-India level awareness about the plant-based space is the biggest challenge faced by startups in the space. “People have a preconceived notion that plant-based meat products may not taste like meat. Also, we need to address the fact that relying heavily on meat to feed an ever-increasing world population will continue to have a negative impact on the environment. We are not only creating a product but building an entire category,” said Haridasan of Shaka Harry.

Creating awareness of the benefits of plant-based meat is a challenge since a majority of the people think, it's synthetically prepared, said Shreh Madan, co-founder and head of marketing, Burgrill India.

The second challenge is the cost. "Keeping price and taste in sync is extremely tough as the ingredients are expensive and are being imported currently," said Madan. “Once the scaling increases, the cost will definitely come down. We'll be able to have a better kind of go-to-market strategy. Right now, it doesn't have that mass appeal as yet it is more of metro and a tier 1 or tier 2 kind of a product. For us to make it a mass product, we really need to have a better scale and once that happens we will be able to go to more people and reach out to more people,” said Sairaj Dhond, founder and CEO, Wakao Foods.

Another challenge is innovating and investing in R&D to continuously innovate the products. “Scaling up the operations and backend manufacturing facilities also needs significant capital expenditure,” said Sinha of GoodDot. 

S Shanthi

Written By

Entrepreneur Staff

Shanthi specialises in writing sector-specific trends,  interviews and startup profiles. She has worked as a feature writer for over a decade in several print and digital media companies. She is also a mom who looks forward to playing a game of cards with her tween daughter every evening after work.