Beyond meat: Is India developing a taste for mock meat?
The food and beverage industry in India has evolved in recent years. From ushering the fourth wave in the coffee industry to rising demand for bean-to-bar chocolates, the space is seeing disruptions across categories.
Another trend that seems to be picking steam over the last few years is that of vegan meat or plant-based meat alternatives.
Two categories of people are particularly giving a push to this trend — vegetarians looking to increase protein in their diets and non-vegetarians who want to gradually shift to a vegan lifestyle.
While the concept of plant-based meat or mock meat is a matured concept in the West, with established brands such as, Archer Daniels Midland and Impossible Foods operating in this space for some time now, the industry is at a nascent stage in India.
Today, several companies in India are trying to crack the vegan meat code in India.
Factors driving the growth of this market
According to a report by Research and Markets, India’s meat substitutes market is expected to reach $47.57 million by 2026 with an average annual growth rate of 7.5 percent during 2021- 2026. The meat market also forms a part of the $400 billion Indian food processing industry which is the third-largest in the world.
Sairaj Dhond, the founder of a plant-based meat brand,, believes the non-vegetarian population is driving the growth of plant-based meat products.
“The vegetarian population is very small compared to the non-vegetarian ones. People who consume the mock meat are those who are eating meat seven days a week and want to bring it down to three,” he tells SMBStory.
He also adds that millennials today are increasingly careful about what is on their plate. Additionally, sustainability and ethical reasons such as avoiding foods that “hurt animals” have also paved the way for alternate-meat products.
Sohil Wazir, COO of another plant-based brand,, says that the idea of alternative meat always existed in India in the form of soy chaap, nuggets, jackfruit, and more. However, a new wave is being ushered by companies that are going beyond the “meaty texture” that has defined the products for long and striving to enhance smell, texture, taste, diversifying in terms of offerings, and more. Products such as veg meat tikka, veg sausages ate popular, indicating product innovation in this space.
Sohil also believes that COVID-19 which has pushed consumers towards conscious purchasing is also responsible for fuelling the demand of this industry. Additionally, a report titled, “India Emerges as a Burgeoning Market for Plant-based Meat Substitutes,” states that these products are being viewed as “immunity-boosting” foods.
Recently, celebrity couple, Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma, came onboard as brand ambassadors of Blue Tribe.
Over the years, this industry has seen brands such as Good Dot, Imagine Meats, GreenestFoods, Urban Platter, Oh Veg, Vegeta Gold, and more, try to find a place in the market.
Not an elite concept
Contrary to popular belief that “veganism” or inclusion of mock meat in the diet is an elite concept, companies are witnessing higher demand from Tier II and III cities, indicating that awareness regarding alternative meats is trickling to places beyond the metros.
Sohil says that Brue Tribe sees a lot of orders and queries from smaller markets like Bhubaneswar, Guwahati, and Dehradun. “Initially, we felt like these cities will not have a lot of demand but surprisingly, the highest orders are coming from these markets today.” The brand feels compelled to research and cater to these markets more seriously now.
Neelam Singh, founder of QSR burger chain The Burger Company, which caters to Tier II and III cities says that the company plans to soon launch a plant-based meat burger due to customer demand.
While this market is gaining momentum and has tremendous potential, there are several challenges and barriers to its growth.
Anirudh Sharma, a consumer of mock meat from Delhi told SMBStory, “I think it's an emerging market for now, but will go down as quickly as it is rising. The only customers are newly turned vegetarians. The products are expensive and the taste barely matches with the original non-veg food.”
The price point for the products starts from Rs 200 for 200 grams and goes till Rs 1,000.
Sairaj says that they as a brand are striving to “bring the taste as close as possible to the original one.”
Sohil further adding to this conversation says, “Our research shows that 60-65 percent people are ready to try plant-based meat products but the taste is the number one factor for them to make this shift.”
Another challenge that needs to be addressed is price. Sohil emphasises that there is no level playing field in this industry. “We are taxed at 18 percent (GST) whereas meat is taxed only at five percent.”
While it is clear that the mock meat market is up for phenomenal growth but the real challenge for the stakeholders of this industry is to crack the recipe code in order to keep growing. Innovation and cracking the taste will define the trajectory of this market in the times to come.