‘Unmeat’ your diet, says plant-based meat startup GoodDot
Tell any meat lover that you are eating Unmutton Keema, Vegicken Curry, or Eggless Bhurji and you are sure to draw some judgement, and maybe even ridicule.
These products, named after popular non-vegetarian dishes, are part of Udaipur-based startup GoodDot’s catalogue, aimed at replacing meat with a plant-based alternative.
The challenge, however, was to be able to successfully mimic the taste, which is sacred to a meat-eater. Abhishek Sinha, Co-founder of GoodDot’s and a former meat-eater, agrees, “When I would eat meat, it was primarily for the taste of meat.”
This is what led Abhishek to launch GoodDot with Deepak Parihar and launchedin 2016 with the hypothesis that a good vegan product, which tasted like meat and was affordable, would find a lot of takers.
“There were two sides of the equation,” he explains. “One, technologically, plant-based meat is possible. If you work in your R&D (Research & Development) properly, you can create a product, which is 100 percent vegan but tastes like meat.”
“Second, [if] the product is available at a good price point, there will be many consumers—especially, meat-eating consumers who are looking to reduce their meat intake,” he adds.
GoodDot’s products include Biryani, Meatless Mince, Unmutton Dhaba Curry Kit, Vegicken Chunks in Brine, in packages of 125-500g, priced between Rs 95 and Rs 379.
GoodDot's Proteiz Chilli
Solving a moral dilemma
For Abhishek, GoodDot was the next step for a cause he believed in. “I'm an animal lover. I have been rescuing and feeding them since my childhood. [But] I also belong to a community where people eat meat.”
“It was a moral dilemma and did not sit down well with my psyche,” he says.
A civil service officer until 2016, Abhishek would often discuss developments in the alternative meat market with his brother Abhinav, who was pursuing a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU).
Soon, he stumbled upon the plant-based meat segment, which uses vegetarian proteins like soybeans or lentils, quinoa, peas, coconut oil, or wheat, and has a special technological set up to make the products taste like meat.
Throughout his life, Abhishek had struggled to give up meat. Countless times, he’d decide to not consume it anymore, only to fail.
“I would go back to eating meat because of the taste. I was unable to control the craving,” he says. Eventually, his passion to save animal lives led him to give up his job and switch to entrepreneurship.
Most of GoodDot’s customers have a similar story—meat-eaters looking for an alternative that will satiate their taste buds.
So, how close does GoodDot come to the taste of meat?
“I won’t say exactly the same but it is very close,” Abhishek says. Of the products GoodDot sells, he adds that some are “extremely similar” to the meat-like taste while others are not as much. “Because R&D is continuous, we are always evolving our product line.”
GoodDot has dedicated food scientists and researchers who work on this. The startup also organises taste tests with restaurant owners, chefs, and other stakeholders to improve its product line. From chicken and mutton to egg, the aim is to be able to mimic the taste, texture, and aroma.
This, Abhishek says, is true for all companies in the sector.
From Udaipur to the world
Initially bootstrapped, GoodDot secured some funds from a few high-net-worth individuals in 2016. It launched its products in 2017 after it set up a production facility on the outskirts of Udaipur.
On concerns about not operating from a metro, Abhishek says that Udaipur—located in the middle of the highway connecting Delhi and Mumbai—has easy access to both markets. And, soy, a key ingredient in its products, is widely available in the Indore-Kota belt, which isn’t very far away from the city. The startup also did not have trouble finding good human resources in the city.
In the beginning, GoodDot reached out to consumers through a direct selling company RCM Business, which has its central warehouse in Bhilwara, another town in eastern Rajasthan. “We could easily send our products to Bhilwara and they take care of the logistics from their office,” Abhishek adds.
Through RCM, GoodDot got access to nearly 10 million people and 8,000-10,000 physical stores. At the time, the majority of its consumers were from Tier II and III cities such as Mughalsarai and Maharajganj in Uttar Pradesh.
But a lot has changed since then.
Claiming to have grown about 100 percent every year, the co-founder says GoodDot sold 3,000 units every day in 2017. Today, it sells almost 50,000 units every day. Also, its direct-to-consumer (D2C) sales picked up last year when it started marketing and promoting online, helping it gain customers in metros.
“Now, that [D2C] is our focus area,” Abhishek says, adding that the D2C wave has helped the startup add new customers who are aware of the impact of meat consumption.
GoodDot is also diversifying its presence and is available in DMart, Reliance, and Amazon. Moreover, it is exporting to Singapore, Canada, Nepal, the UAE, South Africa, Oman and Mauritius.
Before 2020, about 95 percent of its sales were through direct selling.
At present, 55-60 percent of its revenue is from direct selling while D2C and modern trade—including channels like DMart, Reliance, etc— make up 12-15 percent each. Rest are from exports.
According to its latest available financials filed with the Registrar of Companies, GoodDot reported revenue from operations of Rs 18.6 crore in FY 2020.
GoodDot's Biryani and Pulao
Funding and thriving
In July 2021, GoodDot raised $4.6 million from SixthSense Ventures, according to Crunchbase. The startup is planning to raise another round in the next four-five months.
Akshay D'Souza, Chief of Growth and Insights at Bizom, a retail intelligence agency, says the concept of plant-based meat has emerged from the US and India is catching up.
“Right now, it is a niche phenomenon. There is still some time before it becomes mainstream and products evolve,” he adds.
Between 1961 and 2018, global meat production has grown almost five times to 341 million tonnes, says Our World in Data. It is not surprising as it isn’t just about the taste. Meat also has nutritional value and is a good source of protein and iron.
However, this has also led to increasing environmental and animal welfare concerns. Livestock emissions—from manure and gastroenteric releases—account for roughly 32 percent of human-caused methane emissions, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. Animal rearing also needs a lot of fresh water and land to graze cattle.
A combination of these factors, along with more awareness among consumers, has led to the rise in “mock meats”, plant-based protein alternatives, and veganism.
Globally, brands like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are growing through partnerships with traditional outlets.
In India too, movie theatre chain PVR is reportedly introducing a vegan menu. Earlier this month, US-based coffee chain Starbucks launched a vegan menu with Imagine Meat.
Bizom’s Akshay predicts these partnerships will only help in greater adoption.
While the industry in India is still small, limited to a few hundred million dollars, it will grow as more retail chains and FMCG brands enter the space, he adds.
The signs are already there. The Indian plant-based market is likely to reach $400-450 million in the next five years, predicts a June 2022 report by Future Market Insights and India’s Plant-Based Food Industry Association.
Additionally, GoodDot and other Indian brands in the sector like Wakao Foods and Blue Tribe Foods managed to secure funding in recent times. Some of them have also been able to get endorsements from celebrities like Anushka Sharma, Virat Kohli, and Riteish Deshmukh.
In fact, GoodDot onboarded sportsperson Neeraj Chopra as its brand ambassador last year, which further boosted its D2C sales.
What lies ahead?
While the outlook seems promising, the industry faces a number of obstacles, such as awareness, pricing, storage, and transportation, says Harsha Razdan, Partner and Head, Consumer Markets and Internet Business, KPMG in India.
Considering the challenges in the industry, companies that can offer affordable prices and with a refined taste and texture of mock meats will be able to stand out, he adds.
Abhishek is hopeful. “We will expand our capacity, as well as go aggressive on our marketing and branding efforts,” he says. The startup aims to clock annual revenue of Rs 250-300 crore in the next two years.
It is betting on its product and its taste, affordability, R&D, and shelf stability. With its sister brands GoodDo, a fast-food vegan chain, and GoodDot Spices, it is also expanding its avenues.
The next step, says the co-founder, is to expand and diversify through supermarkets and launch GoodDot in the US and UK markets.
The story has been updated with infographics.