Plant-based food companies in India are cashing in on the appeal animal-free products have among the world’s largest vegetable-eating population

By Rithika Ponnala

Indian family eating plant-based food at home

Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are first movers in the global plant-based food space. The markets where they are operating from and expanding to are a clear indication that plant-based meat is sought-after in the Americas and Europe. But where does India, which has the lowest meat consumption per capita, stand?

India, with a 26% vegetarian population, is deemed to represent the world’s largest vegetable-eating consumer group. The country is also made of several flexitarians  – people who are selective about the meat they consume and the days on which they consume – widening the target audience for plant-based start-ups in the country.

Notably, the region is home to early-stage alternative protein businesses that propose substitutes for not only meat but also for dairy products like milk and cheese.

Plant-based milk and dairy

Goodmylk is among the growing Indian plant milk companies. The start-up manufactures in Bangalore and sells pan-India through e-commerce platforms, including its own.

Goodmylk raised INR 3 Crore (about $400,000) in its second seed round in January 2020 from four investors, including a prominent name in the plant-based space, VegInvest.

Combined with previous investment raised in January 2018, Goodmulk has raised a total of INR 5.5 Crore (about $727,000) to date.

Faymylk, SAIN, Cowvati, are also making forays into the milk and dairy space and most of them ship pan-India.

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India has also seen early-stage companies producing cheese and mayonnaise-like dairy choosing to expand new revenue streams. Mumbai-based, Soft Spot Cheese, for instance, partnered with PizzaExpress to create vegan cheese pizzas.

‘Mock-meat’ set to take off

The plant-based meat revolution in India started very recently, around 2016. Today, there are notable companies like GoodDot, Vezley, Veggie Champ of Ahimsa Food, Urban Platter, and Mister Veg Food, to name but a few. Each brand has positioned itself as vegan start-ups that also produce upstream products such as raw materials and ingredients.

GoodDot, for instance, makes chunks of meat and not downstream products like patty or sausages. The plant-based protein chunks are shelf-stable and are made available for different Indian recipes.

Other food companies have adopted the downstream product approach, too. This strategy forms a strong factor that differentiates Indian brands from the ones in the West.

Fast food

Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods started with their trademark burger patties, and eventually expanded to offering sausages and crumbles. Downstream products like these, although popular among the Indians, do not exactly match their food preference.

In the Indian fast food industry, western fast-food chains like McDonald’s and KFC, among others, command only around 2% to 3% market share. Producing upstream products, therefore, is a bonus for these budding start-ups. 

Distribution channels

What these companies have also done right is managing their supply channels. Most of these start-ups, although serving only a few cities currently, have chosen ways to reach their customers directly.

For instance, Urban Platter, which has about 1,000 in-house products, including mock-meat products, gets 90% of its sale from Amazon India, while 5% comes from the website and the rest from offline retail and corporate sales.

While e-commerce sites serve as a great source of revenue, these companies are constantly developing their platforms and choosing other direct selling channels and retail distribution.

Man shopping plant-based food at supermarket
E-commerce has taken the lead on sales out of brick-and-mortar retailers

GoodDot is also foraying into QSR Kiosks (kiosks for quick-service restaurants) and making its products available through food trucks, food court outlets, and single independent restaurants.

In the seafood space, Biotrack Foods, the parent company of the Vegetagold brand, has been making waves since August 2019 when the company announced the launch of its plant-based fish range Soyato. The product is in the market in fillets and slices.

Biotrack Foods created these products with textured vegetable and soy proteins. Mister Veg Food has taken a similar approach.

Egg: A grey area for consumers in India

Evo Foods is creating a unique plant-based liquid egg to provide Indian consumers with an alternative to the animal product. In Evo’s latest angel investment announcement, the funders highlighted the fact that “egg is considered as vegetable and non-veg by different communities and cultures”.

A stellar line-up of investors is backing Evo Foods, including Big Idea Ventures and VegInvest.

Notably, India is the fifth largest producer of eggs and stands at a per capita consumption of 68 eggs a year.

Plantmade is another seed-stage business in this market. A brainchild of IIT Delhi students, Plantmade has developed a liquid egg substitute for scrambled eggs, and the company is gearing up for launching soon.

Support to plant-based market

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and rising concerns over the environment and public health, several healthcare experts, animal welfare groups, and the Indian government have been promoting plant-based food options for consumers.

Backed by established start-up incubators, such as ProVeg and IndieBio, as well as aspiring entrepreneurs, the Indian plant-based market has the potential to take off in the years to come.

Big Idea Ventures, the accelerator and venture fund, is one of a handful of names in the industry with a sharp eye on innovation in plant-based food alternatives.

Andrew Ive, founder and general partner at Big Idea Ventures, told NutritionInvestor that in addition to investing in Evo Foods, the firm works closely with GFI India and Humane Society of India on plant-based protein.

It shouldn’t be surprising to see more companies enter the market, raising capital with the success that fellow brands Goodmylk, Good Dot, and Evo Foods have shown to date.

About the author

Rithika Ponnala
Rithika Ponnala is a senior research analyst based in India. She has experience in product and service market research and consulting.
A plant-based food advocate, Ponnala confesses that becoming a vegan is an aspiration of her own.

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Date published: 1 July 2020

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