A meaty challenge


December 12, 2022

Christina Moniz, Financial Express

December 12, 2022

This year has seen the entry of several brands into the plant-based meat category, from large players like ITC and Tata Consumer Products to newer brands like Licious. Mock meat, a growing trend especially in Western markets, is a plant-based protein processed to resemble and taste like meat. From vegetarian ‘chicken nuggets’ and sausages to meat-free ‘mutton’ seekh kebabs, most Indian players use ingredients like soya and jackfruit to mimic the texture and taste of meat.

The Indian vegan meat market is rather small currently — estimated to be around Rs 250-300 crore. But consider the potential: About 41 percent of respondents in India identified as either vegan, vegetarian, or pescatarian in a 2021 survey. A report by Wazir Advisors estimates that this category will grow 8-10 times to reach Rs 3,500 crore in 2026.

Looking from a global perspective too, this new category cannot be written off as just a blip. Worldwide, the consumption of such meat substitutes grew from 133 million kg in 2013 to 470 million kg in 2020.

While the projections are fantastic for this market, it is still very small within the entire food category, points out Sandeep Singh, co-founder of Blue Tribe Foods, a two-year-old start-up in this segment. What is needed to grow the category, he believes, is innovation. “The food items need to move beyond burgers and nuggets to appeal to the Indian non-vegetarian consumer. For example, someone needs to create a good chicken tikka masala or a good kheema to attract the Indian palate,” he explains. Earlier this year, star couple Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma announced their investment in Blue Tribe Foods, a move that has boosted awareness for the brand and category, says Singh.

Variety & cost

Tata Consumer Products, which launched its vegan meat brand, Simply Better, in July this year is tapping into the trend of consumers moving towards healthier and sustainable lifestyle choices. Deepika Bhan, president, packaged foods (India), Tata Consumer Products, maintains that the market holds great growth potential. “Over 70% of the Indian population is flexitarian (consumes both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food). Surveys also show that over 73% of Indians today are protein deficient. These data points signify untapped potential in the plant protein segment. The consumer cohort, which is aware of the health and environmental benefits of plant protein, is likely to expand to a more diverse audience seeking to supplement their diet with alternate, plant-based meat,” remarks Bhan.

Cost is a factor hindering growth. Currently, the pricing for plant-based meat is 1.5 times the price of real meat products. “For premium consumers, price is not a challenge but to gain scale and reach the masses, pricing needs to be more attractive,” observes Devangshu Dutta, CEO, Third Eyesight. Indians have for decades consumed soya nuggets and products as a source of protein and as a meat alternative, but brands today are targeting urban consumers who are not price sensitive. “The consumers that brands are targeting are influenced by trends in Western markets and adopting veganism for ethical or health reasons,” adds Dutta.

Another consumption trend that is unique to Indian consumers is that there are around 100-odd non-meat eating days annually, on account of religious or cultural occasions. Meat and seafood company Licious is targeting these consumers on non-meat eating days with its newly launched vegan meat brand, UnCrave. Simeran Bhasin, business head, alternative protein, Licious, states that all brands in the category are still on a journey to improve their offerings . “Our plan is to create relevance before aiming to take a share in it. Eating is believing, and we want more of our consumers to sample our alternative protein offerings. So, we send samples of UnCrave along with Licious food deliveries to encourage consumption and drive brand awareness,” explains Bhasin.

While UnCrave is currently present in only four cities (Mumbai, Delhi, Pune and Bangalore), she asserts that there is a market for the brand in non-metros too and expects the brand to reach the top 20 markets by the end of the next fiscal.

(Published in Financial Express)

Will Tata’s mock meat foray drive the plant-based segment forward?


July 24, 2022

By Aishwarya Ramesh

Tata Consumer Products has rolled out ready-to-cook mock meat products under the brand name Simply Better.

Tata Consumer Products (TCPL) is the latest company to enter the plant-based meat segment in India. TCPL has launched a brand called Simply Better – which includes range of ready-to-cook (RTC) products, made of plant-based meat.

The RTC range is a mix of snacking dishes and traditional Indian dishes. It includes plant-based chicken nuggets, chicken fingers, chicken burger patties and Awadhi seekh kebabs. All these plant-based products are currently available on Amazon Prime and Flipkart.

TCPL's Simply Better products as seen on Amazon

TCPL’s Simply Better products as seen on Amazon.

When it comes to multinational companies, ITC has a play in this (RTC) category. Its Master Chef range includes a plant-based burger patty, priced at Rs 630 for 300 grams. The range has both vegetarian and non-vegetarian frozen snacks and kebabs. The Incredible range also has plant-based chicken nuggets, priced at Rs 475 for 300 grams.

ITC’s IncrEdible plant-based RTC range

Compared to ITC’s offering, Tata’s Simply Better line is priced slightly differently. 270 grams of plant-based chicken nuggets costs Rs 390 and the plant-based burger patty is priced at Rs 450 for 300 grams.

According to a report by Research and Markets, the Indian meat substitutes and mock meat market is estimated to reach over USD47.57 million in value terms by the end of FY2026 and is forecast to grow at CAGR of 7.48% during FY2021E-FY2026.

Devangshu Dutta, chief executive and founder at Third Eyesight, a specialist consulting firm, mentions that the presence of Tata Consumer Products and ITC could help in increasing adoption of the category over time, since both are large players intending to scale with mainstream customers.

“However, both companies will be advertising and targeting the same cohort of customers. Additionally, the two will also be competing against the multiple D2C brands in the category,” he added.

The plant-based meat market, or smart protein market, includes D2C brands. Some of these brands are also backed and endorsed by celebrities and athletes. The Good Dot is endorsed by Olympic athlete Neeraj Chopra, cricketer Virat Kohli and his wife and actress Anushka Sharma have invested in Blue Tribe and actor-couple Riteish Deshmukh and his wife Genelia Deshmukh have invested in plant-based meat startup Imagine Meats.

Anchit Chauhan, AVP – planning, Wunderman Thompson, mentions that the plant-based industry has been built by a set of startups, and now Tata has decided to enter the segment – somewhat late.

“If you look at the e-commerce segment too, Tata entered late with Tata CLiQ, almost 10-12 years after the e-commerce category had been built by the likes of Amazon and Flipkart. But the advantage Tata has is that the trust factor will always be associated with it. It will be able to leverage that brand equity and create success out of it.”

Dutta points out that for years, the most popular plant-based meat product had been Ruchi Soya’s product – Nutrela’s soya chunks and granules (soya chunks available at Rs 499 for 200 grams and granules at Rs 250 for a kilogram). Soya chunks have been available in India since the 1980s and Dutta calls it the ‘poor man’s meat replacement’.

He says that Indians already get protein in their diet through lentils, pulses and beans, and even those who consume non-vegetarian food don’t do so on a regular basis.

“They may eat it once or twice a week. Some people who convert from non-vegetarian to vegetarian, don’t miss the taste at all. Protein isn’t a huge selling point for these products either. So, this specific faux meat segment in India is a niche market.”

Both analysts (Dutta and Chauhan) opined that Tata’s entry into the segment would not have significant impact on the way the products are priced in this category.

According to Chauhan, India is mostly a vegetarian country and the consumers who may opt for plant-based products are ones who may do so out of concern for the environment, love for animals or an overall healthier diet.

Reasons for turning to plant-based meat

Reasons for turning to plant-based meat

“Plant-based products are essentially for non-vegetarians, who have a certain taste but are willing to give it up because they feel for the environment or animals. But that’s a very urban niche right now. If you’re a ‘woke’ urban consumer, the price point of the products may not matter,” says Chauhan.

“One of the factors for this segment to grow in India is availability. Whether it is a startup or a company as big as Tata or ITC, it has to have financial muscle to sustain growth and must be easily available to consumers. Visibility and user trials are important, especially to attract consumers who wish to make a lifestyle switch in their diet. That’s why modern retail is an important channel for these products,” Dutta adds.

Different brands in the segment right now

Different brands in the segment right now

Dutta explains fundamental consumer behaviour and calls expansion in this market ‘tricky’, since it is difficult to get people to change their behaviour.

“This is even more the case in smaller cities and towns, where people may have a more traditional mindset. Take the example of Kelloggs – it has been in the country for almost 30 years and there hasn’t been a mass behaviour switch as far as breakfast meals are concerned.”

Chauhan adds that it is not just plant-based meat, there is now demand for alcohol-free products – which taste the same as alcohol but do not have any of the side effects that come with drinking alcohol.

Dutta mentions that people in Tier-II and III cities may not be aware of plant-based meats. This is a tricky category that requires a lot more development. “It’s possible that plant-based meats will remain an urban phenomenon for a long time.”

Source : afaqs.com