How Delhi-based Vezlay uses fake meat to make chicken legs, kababs, and shawarmas
Vezlay founder and director Amit Bajaj
Contrary to popular belief, India is a non-vegetarian country. Around 80 percent of Indian men and 70 percent of women are non vegetarians, according to an IndiaSpend analysis of national health data.
But there is an increasing awareness of the health benefits of a meat-free diet and many health-conscious Indians (primarily those who can afford alternatives) are looking to cut down their meat consumption.
This is where Delhi-based Vezlay Foods comes into play.
Started in 2011, Amit Bajaj's company is positioning soya as the vegetarian alternative to meat.
"After my MBA, I went to work abroad. There, I saw the concept of healthy, veg meat. But in India, junk food, including non vegetarian items, was becoming very common among the youth. So I thought I could introduce veg meat in India," says Vezlay founder and director Amit Bajaj.
Amit came back to Delhi and started Vezlay in 2011 to put forward meat items out of soya.
Soyabeans have historically been used in East Asian countries as meat alternatives since the food is high in protein and fiber. Soya-based veg meat also tastes mild and can easily adopt flavours added during preparation.
Further, Amit was bringing this concept to an Indian market that generally considered soya a standalone food, and not a meat alternative.
The aim was to make veg meat products in Delhi, but use proven, foreign technology to achieve the desired result, Amit says.
Vezlay's soya-based chicken product
The plan was a big success, and in eight years, Vezlay grew pan-India.
Today, it has a wide of range of ready-to-cook veg meat products made from soya. Some of these are soya seekh kabab, shami kabab, nugget, chops, and leg pieces.
The 50-member company sells through various mediums such as retail, directly to restaurants and end-consumers, exhibitions, trade and fairs.
It is also generating an annual revenue of Rs 2 crore.
"Our products are sold pan-India and we also export to the US," Amit says.
Vezlay's veg meat products are targeted at children, people who want to cut down their non veg consumption, or people who are just looking for healthy food, he explains.
And while growing its product range, Vezlay became one of the first companies in India to introduce soya chaap (a vegetarian take on tandoori tikka).
Amit adds that Vezlay is the first in the country to make soya noodles.
"Our range of veg chicken items made from soya also entered the market first. They look and taste like chicken, but are completely vegetarian," he says.
Vezlay's soya-based chicken lollipop product
Veg shawarmas are another unique offering. In the Middle East, shawarmas are the basic street food and are popular. They are originally made with lamb or mutton.
"We saw this and introduced our veg meat version in India. It looks exactly like the regular shawarma, and in fact, is more nutritious than its non veg counterpart," Amit says.
Armed with this successful, soya-based formula for veg meat, Vezlay is now focussing on its India market. It aims to establish itself here before it starts exporting to other countries.