Plant-based meat? Yes, that’s the new buzzword in food trends in a pandemic year.
A recent report published by the World Economic Forum has said that there is a surge in demand for Plant-based protein foods in Asia because Covid-19 has raised concerns over links between meat consumption and viral diseases.
According to another study by Innova Market Insights, the Plant-Based Revolution ranks second out of the top ten food trends for 2020 that is expected to influence a host of new product developments (NPD) in the future.
A food system that is Good for People and the Planet
India too is an emerging market for Plant-based foods and dairy alternatives. AAK Kamani (www.aakkamani.com) recently partnered with the Good Food Institute (GFI) India (www.gfi.org.in) to collaborate on research and business promotions aimed at advancing projects in this space.
In India, GFI works through partnerships to help increase availability of Plant-based protein sourced from indigenous crops, in ways that help promote sustainable agricultural practices, provide stable market access, support farmer incomes and create a strong localised supply base for Indian entrepreneurs.
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With support from GFI, AAK Kamani will also provide “Co-Development expertise” for guiding companies on how to accelerate the formulation of new products, with a focus on achieving optimal texture and appealing to local tastes.
AAK Kamani has introduced the AkoPlanet food solution (https://www.aak.com/applications/plant-based-foods/akoplanet) which seeks to move towards a sustainable world. With AkoPlanet’s oils and fats, customers can develop great-tasting Plant-based food in the Meat, Dairy and Frozen Dessert categories.
Dheeraj Talreja, India - President, AAK Kamani says, “We hear the terms veganism, vegetarianism, and flexitarianism much more today than we did about ten years ago. Consumers today have greater access to product and company information, and this enables them to make ethical and environmentally conscious decisions. There is also an increased awareness of the impact our food has on the ecosystem and consumers want to be able to make the right choices for themselves and their families.”
Apart from environmental concerns, another trend driving the demand for plant-based food is that of the ‘Clean Label’. Clean label foods have easy to recognise ingredients that are natural, non-GMO, unprocessed, and contain no synthetic chemicals. Health food brands and companies are incorporating this concept through their offerings, products and ethos.
Dheeraj continues, “Before Covid-19, the Plant-based food segment was not that popular, however, consumers now see the upside to making healthier food choices and are now open to adding Plant-based foods to their diet in a bid to optimise their nutrition.”
Plant-based foods are also gaining traction as they are an alternative for scores of vegetarians, vegans and flexitarians who wish to consume little to no meat or meat products. Significant rise in rates of obesity, heart diseases and diabetes has also led people to opt for Plant-based foods and other supplements.
Delhi-based Vezlay Foods (www.vezlay.com) has developed a range of meat-substitutes, all made from Soya - Soya Seekh Kabab, Soya Shami Kabab, Soya Chikka Biryani, Soya Nuggets, Soya Indi Fries, Soya Veg Lollipop, Vegetarian Shawarma, Veg Chicken and many more.
The company also offers Gluten Free Soya Noodle and Soya Vegget to maintain daily protein requirements. Vezlay is also India’s first company to have developed Soya Chop. It has also recently launched Scrambled Egg and Vegetarian Sausages made from Soya.
Amit Bajaj, Managing Director, Vezlay Foods says, “The plant-based foods market in India has seen growth over the last 2-3 years. The products are more in demand by millennials. Also many of our religions preach to avoid non-veg foods. These messages have had a huge impact on our Indian society from time immemorial. All these factors have pushed the consumption of plant-based meat and proteins.”
Vezlay has priced its products very economically starting from Rs 20 to make it pocket friendly for common people. Vezlay’s main ingredient is soybean. Because soya gives high protein, and it is rich in dietary fiber and a good source of calcium, it helps in preventing cancer and is a healthy alternative for non-vegetarians.
Amit adds, “Using traditional spices, herbs and nutritious soya we have developed many products which are healthier alternatives to non-veg and junk food.” He opines that Covid-19 has seen a steady decline in the consumption of non-vegetarian foods. Immunity booster products are more in demand these days. And these products are mostly plant based like pulses, traditional spices, herbs, etc.
Goa-based Wakao Foods (www.wakaofoods.com) uses a fruit that is found in abundance in the Konkan belt and southern India – the jackfruit. The delicious range of the Wakao Jack Meat is curated to suit different tastes, from meat lovers to fitness enthusiasts, there is something for everyone.
The Ready to Cook varieties include the Raw Jack, that can be used as a meat substitute in any recipe for a decadent vegan alternative and the Jack Burger Patty, that makes cheat meals healthy in a never seen before avatar. The Ready to Eat varieties include the Teriyaki Jack, that is perfectly paired with a slider or as a frankie to enhance its flavours; the BBQ Jack, that makes for a mouth-watering filling for wraps and the Butter Jack, that is the go-to choice to whip up a quick meal along with a side of some steaming rice.
Sairaj Dhond, Founder and CEO, Wakao Foods says, “The Plant-based foods market in India is in its nascent stages but is a segment waiting to explode. We have witnessed just the tip of the iceberg uptill now and with the growing awareness about eating healthy and moral consciousness, the demand for these foods is only going to increase many folds.”
He believes that the consumer segment driving the demand are the next generation consumers who are conscious about their eating habits, consumers who have adapted veganism and the traditional vegetarians who are open to exploring.
Sairaj affirms that Covid-19 has had a positive as well as a negative impact on the segment. “Multiple people, during the lockdown, adapted veganism and have become more conscious about what they eat. This resulted in a growth of consumers along with high demand for varieties in the 'conscious eating' sector. However, the development segment did take a hit as it slowed the R&D in the food sector due to unavailability of multiple essential resources. Now that the lockdown has been lifted, the industrial aspect has once again started booming” he observes.
The main ingredient Wakao Foods uses is Jackfruit, which is high in fibre and is an incredibly versatile fruit. The meat like texture of the fruit helps in curating multiple unique dishes by adding nutrition and taste to the dishes. The initial response has been very encouraging.
Sairaj says, “We have witnessed a huge amount of curiosity amongst the consumers and openness to welcoming and exploring this new vegan meat. A lot of Restaurants and Cafes have already included dishes made from our meat on their menus. We are also seeing good traction for our products in the local supermarkets. We are getting a lot of promising export enquiries from different parts of the world as well.”