Billion Dollar Opportunity: Smart Protein Summit Highlights India’s Growing Alt Protein Industry

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The Good Food Institute India (GFI India), a nonprofit organisation supporting India’s burgeoning alternative protein ecosystem, recently hosted its Smart Protein Summit to great fanfare. Several key announcements were made during the course of the packed five-day virtual summit, including a dedicated investment and advisory platform for Asian food techs, the launch of an India-focused alternative protein accelerator, and more details on Bollywood celebrities Riteish and Genelia Deshmukh’s new vegan meat brand among other news, as well as an inspired keynote by former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi. 

Held virtually this year between October 6 to 10, the Summit is the largest alternative protein industry event in the country that brought together thought leaders, investors and even Bollywood celebrities to advance the development of plant-based, fermentation-derived and cultivated proteins that will help build a healthier and more sustainable food system in India and beyond. In total, over 70 speakers were featured at the event with over 2,000 attendees who represented stakeholders across the value chain, from food processing to retail and scientific research, hoping to progress an industry that will be worth over US$1 billion within the decade, according to GFI India. 

“The excitement and groundbreaking announcements surrounding the Smart Protein Summit are a testament to the growing corporate, investor, and government interest in the burgeoning Indian alternative protein sector,” Varun Deshpande, GFI India‘s Managing Director told Green Queen. “As an agricultural and technology powerhouse, India will be a lynchpin in the global food system for the next decades – building the alternative protein industry from the ground up is critical to ensuring that food system is healthy, sustainable, and just.” 

New Indian Plant-Based Brands Imagine Meats & Blue Tribe Food Go Live

Major announcements were revealed over the course of the Summit, including juicy details that Bollywood icons Riteish and Genelia Deshmukh dished out about their new plant-based meat company, Imagine Meats

“We like our tikka, we like our kheema, that’s the kind of food that we enjoy. [Our] vision for Imagine Meats is to get the right kind of taste for people because the one thing that you cannot compromise on your product is taste,” said Riteish Deshmukh. “In terms of the product line, we’re trying to make a mix of ready-to-eat meals. We want to be region specific, because the kind of Imagine Meats products available in Maharashtra would be probably different from Delhi, in North India to Bengal or South India.”

Genelia Deshmukh added that the brand is targeting the “guilty non-vegetarian eaters” in India and providing them with convenient options that they can “take it home, eat it without any guilt.”

In terms of the product line, we’re trying to make a mix of ready-to-eat meals. We want to be region specific, because the kind of Imagine Meats products available in Maharashtra would be probably different from Delhi, in North India to Bengal or South India.

Riteish Deshmukh, Co-Founder of Imagine Meats

Another exciting launch that attendees of the Smart Protein Summit were the first to hear about is Blue Tribe Foods, who presented on Day 3 of the event during the Innovator Showcase. The startup’s CMO Sohil Wazir spoke about the new plant-based meat venture founded by Sandeep Singh, the managing director of Indian pharmaceutical firm Alkem Labs and his patner Niki Singh.

Source: LikeMeat / Unsplash

GFI India & WEF Announce Alt-Protein Forum

With support from the World Economic Forum, GFI India also announced the creation of a new Alt-Protein Forum, which targets pre-competitive partnerships between startups and co-manufacturers, corporations and incumbent meat, egg and dairy industry leaders that already have the space and equipment infrastructure for scale.

“When companies are scaling up they don’t know the market size and don’t know if they require a smaller quantity to test production, they are unaware of the regulatory and marketing challenges,” explained Dheeraj Talreja, President of India-AAK. “We think collaboration is the way forward to address and remove some of these bottlenecks. We’re looking forward to working together and bringing people on a common platform.”

“We want to create a forum for multi-stakeholder collaborations and be pivotal to shaping the landscape over the next few years,” added GFI India. “We invite retailers, distributors, foodservice people across the value chain to present data. We will synthesize data from these meetings and focus on collaborations.”

Protein Is Critical Element Of Food Supply, Says Indra Nooyi

Indra Nooyi, the former chairperson and CEO of PepsiCo, speaking about the issue at hand said: “We have to figure out how to give people a very healthy food supply and one critical element of the food supply is protein.”

“My hope is that we make the food supply a lot more healthy and therefore our citizens healthy and then we address this whole inequality in food distribution so that there are no food deserts and food surplus where so much food is wasted that’s my dream. Whether that’s going to happen or not, it’s up to the private sector and governments citizens, and nonprofit organisations. Everybody sitting together and figuring out how to make this reality,” Nooyi added.

First Plant-Based Seafood Certification Announced

Furthermore, GFI announced another partnership during the event with the World Sustainability Organization (WSO), which will see plant-based seafood products certified under a Gold Level version of their Friend of the Sea (FOTS) certification program.

“The World Sustainability Organisation’s DNA is to promote more sustainable products so we are launching a golden or premium label certification for plant-based seafood to highlight at the B2B level those products which originated in a sustainable way and this can impact the market,” said Dr Paolo Bray, the founder and director of the WSO.

The goal here is to create a huge impact by backing innovative, most ambitious, and most mission-aligned people and giving them the tools to lead in this space.

Rajeev Chitrabhanu, Founder of Magnetic
Rajeev Chitrabhanu (Source: Entrepreneur India)

New Investment Partnership To Support Indian Startups

The Summit additionally saw Magnetic and well-recognised investor Rajeev Chitrabhanu’s launch of a partnership with GFI to support, advise and provide funding to alternative protein startups in India and across the wider Asian region. 

“I’m proud to say that I’m announcing a vertical within MAGNETIC focused on consumer-facing products, understanding their issues, and obviously motivated by my personal interest in this space and the global trend and the network that I have across the PE firms, venture capital firms, and corporates and finding a way to act as an advisor and capital provider to them,” Chitrabhanu told the audience. 

“The goal here is to create a huge impact by backing innovative, most ambitious, and most mission-aligned people and giving them the tools to lead in this space.”

Debut Joint Venture & Accelerator For India’s Alt Protein Industry

Finally, Big Idea Ventures (BIV) and Ashika Group publicised their new joint venture, an investment and accelerator program focused on nurturing and supporting Indian entrepreneurs across the alternative protein space, from cell-based startups to plant-based and fermentation food techs. 

Source: GoodDO

We leapfrogged over laptops in India, now we have more people with mobiles than laptops. India is a protein-deficient country – we can leapfrog over animal-based meat directly to plant-based meat.

Chirag Jain, CEO of Ashika Group

“We are looking for great founders, great entrepreneurs, and [want to] find out how they can create an India-based Beyond or Impossible,” said Andrew D. Ive, founder and managing general partner at BIV. “We will put in money, mentorship, and access across stakeholders in the value chain.” 

“[We are] looking for companies working on alternative meat dairy, and on the supply side – so not just B2C but also B2B – be it supplying other brands or exporting material for global brands,” added Chirag Jain, CEO of Ashika Group. “We leapfrogged over laptops in India, now we have more people with mobiles than laptops. India is a protein-deficient country – we can leapfrog over animal-based meat directly to plant-based meat.” 


Lead image courtesy of Good Dot.


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