The market for plant-based meat alternatives is seeing some action, but soya products still command a big chunk of it
Globally, as per Euromonitor, the market for plant-based meat is worth $20.7 billion, and is set to grow to $23.2 billion by 2024.
The market for meat alternatives in India, albeit small, has seen the entry of several players. Start-ups such as Ahimsa Food, GoodDot, Vegeta Gold and Vegitein are dishing out plant-based alternatives of meat for the growing cohort of vegan consumers. GoodDot, for instance, has products like Vegetarian Bytz and Achari Tikka, while Ahimsa Foods has Vegan Pepper Salami, Vegan Banarasi Burger and Vegan Classic Chicken. These products are manufactured using plant-based proteins like soya protein, pea protein and wheat protein, along with quinoa flour, spices etc, and are processed to taste like meat. Last month, QSR chain Domino’s Pizza made quite a splash by adding a plant-based ‘chicken-like’ pizza to its menu.
Globally, as per Euromonitor, the market for plant-based meat is worth $20.7 billion, and is set to grow to $23.2 billion by 2024. Sanjesh Thakur, partner, Deloitte India, says the market for plant-based protein in India is valued at Rs 2,000-2,500 crore, and is largely (90%) unorganised. Moreover, 65% of this market is dominated by soya products; while the rest comprise wheat protein, pea protein and others.
Lately, FMCG brands have taken an interest in the soya chunks category. Marico launched Saffola Mealmaker Soya Chunks late last year, while Adani Wilmar launched ready-to-cook Fortune Soya Chunkies. Reliance Home Products, too, has dabbled in this category under its private label GoodLife. Ruchi Soya’s Nutrela brand of soya chunks, which has existed for a while, has reportedly seen a 10-15% growth over the past year.
Soya and then some
Brands are attempting to drive adoption of this category on healthy and non-meat propositions. Adani Wilmar has positioned its Fortune Soya Chunkies as a ‘healthy snacking option’ with a preparation time of “five minutes”. “Unlike traditional soya products available in the market, our product has removed the three stages involved in cooking — washing, drying and squeezing out the water,” says Ajay Motwani, head, marketing, Adani Wilmar.
The company claims to have taken a “non-traditional approach” by launching the product with seasoning sachets in flavours like Chinese Manchurian, African Peri Peri and Mexican Salsa. The product has been rolled out in 8,000 retail touchpoints in West Bengal and e-commerce platforms. To encourage trials, the product has been priced at Rs 15 for a 58.5 gm pack.
GoodDot is trying to convince consumers about the ‘meat-like’ taste of its products. For this, the Udaipur-based start-up has tied up with direct selling company RCM Business. “We are also using our products at our QSRs in Delhi, Mumbai and Udaipur, for recipes like biryani and burgers,” says Abhishek Sinha, co-founder and CEO, GoodDot. The company operates nine outlets and claims to sell 1,500-2,000 units of its products per day.
Meanwhile, Ruchi Soya plans to go beyond urban centres. “We have increased the distribution of the Rs 10 pack in rural areas to induce trials,” says Priyendu Jha, director, Patanjali Ayurved, which recently acquired Ruchi Soya. The company’s co-founder Baba Ramdev has been propagating the “health benefits” of its products.
‘Meating’ taste expectations
Passing the taste test is critical for companies in the plant-based protein category in India. Cases in point are organic foods and cornflakes, which witnessed decent traction initially, but struggled to appease the Indian palate in the long run.
Another vital aspect that will determine the success of niche products like plant-based meat is pricing, says Rajat Tuli, senior principal, consumer and retail practice, Kearney. “Companies have to get their pricing right if they want to drive mass adoption of their products.”
Consider this: GoodDot’s Vegetarian Bytz is priced at Rs 640 per kg, while chicken — which constitutes more than half of the Indian meat market — is available at Rs 250-275 per kg on online platforms like Licious. Finding cheaper alternatives to the expensive pea protein, to make plant-based meat, will be key in bringing down prices.
For FMCG brands looking to diversify into this category, experts say, demand forecasting would be imperative, as these are very small segments. “Unlike hair oil, food products are perishable; hence, a company could be left with large amounts of expired products if they go wrong in projecting market requirements,” says Thakur of Deloitte India.