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ITC, one of India’s largest conglomerates, has announced it is to enter the plant-based meat sector. The FMCG giant is a domestic favourite, producing products that are bought by Indian households the world over. Due to its size, ITC moving into the meat-free sector is likely to impact the export market positively.
Owner of the Aashirvaad, Sunfeast and Bingo! Brands, ITC is accustomed to managing a diverse product portfolio. Plant-based burger patties and nuggets will soon be available direct-to-consumers and through foodservice channels. The Good Food Institute India (GFI India) has advised on launch strategy.
The numbers don’t lie
ITC cites GFI India research as being a catalyst in the move forward. Figures released by the institute revealed that 63 percent of urban and upwardly mobile non-vegetarians would buy plant-based meats regularly. ITC refers to the ‘smart protein’ and ‘alternative protein’ sectors, citing Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat as key figureheads. The conglomerate aims to similarly produce animal meat-free foods that can replicate culturally significant dishes. Planet and personal health are considered to be at the top of the priority stakes.
“Smart protein and plant-based meats are a generational opportunity to align planetary health stewardship, public health resilience, and economic growth,” Varun Deshpande, managing director of GFI India said in a statement. “While entrepreneurs are blazing a trail in building the category, mega-corporations with their distribution heft, deep R&D capabilities, and intimate involvement in consumers’ lives can take a nascent phenomenon to the next level. ITC Ltd’s visionary foray into plant-based meats and focus on providing non-vegetarian eaters with the meat products they know and love will further accelerate the sector, bringing delicious, sustainable protein into the true mass market and onto plates across the country.”
GFI India reported that globally, $3.5 billion in venture capital was invested in alternative protein in 2021. ITC has identified fellow large conglomerates that are acquiring and developing plant-based brands. It names JBS, which bought Vivera, Nestlé, and Unilever, owner of The Vegetarian Butcher. Startups within the Indian landscape have enjoyed success with plant-based meat development but no large FMCG operations have made the move. ITC represents a dynamic shift towards big company meat-free alternatives within India.
“There is no large pan-Indian brand in the plant-based protein segment in India.,” Hemant Malik, divisional chief executive of ITC confirmed. “We have worked with some global partners to ensure there is no compromise either on the product texture, quality, and taste. We want to enjoy the early mover advantage in India. The meat market is huge with 72% of Indians being non-vegetarians and [the market] is estimated today at $45 billion. Given the growing concerns around wellness and sustainability, India has the potential to emerge as a large market for plant-based alternatives.”
Initial offerings will be centred around pea protein. Developments with legumes and soy are ongoing. There is scope for ITC to move into both finished consumer goods and B2B ingredients.
India’s plant-based paradise
It was announced last month that India will be a new campaign hub for Veganuary. The news came after the country witnessed 60,000 people signing up to participate in the 2021 event. It was the third-largest subscriber in the world. This is just one update that points towards India’s increasing love affair with meat-free living. A recently-conducted study by Kerry appears to prove it further. Findings revealed that India is a key driver for not only vegan but also flexitarian product launches.
All images courtesy of Unsplash.