Shaka Harry Shakes Up India’s Growing Vegan Market With $2 Million Seed Raise
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Shaka Harry, an Indian-based plant-based meat brand, has raised $2 million in a Seed funding round led by Better Bite Ventures, Blue Horizon, and Panthera Peak among others, including celebrity chef Manu Chandra.
Designed around the Indian palate, Shaka Harry says it’s one of the fastest-growing vegan meat and snacks brands in South Asia. The funding will help the brand move from online sales into retail spaces as well as expand its R&D.
“It is the most exciting time to launch a consumer brand on the smarter protein platform,” Anand Nagarajan, Co-founder, Shaka Harry said in a statement. “We are already the best performing brand in the online stores where we have presence,” he said.
According to Nagarajan, Shaka Harry is outperforming its competitors on taste. That’s due in large part to the involvement of chef Manu Chandra, who brought India its first gastro-pub, Monkey Bar.
“If I could convert from a skeptic to a believer in plant-based futures, I’m sure, so could a lot of you,” said Chandra, who helped develop the recipes for the ready meals.
“We’ve come such a long way from the once dreaded rubbery substitutes with dubious processes to clean labelled and delicious alternatives. Intervening as a chef to take the Shaka Harry product ranges to the next level of taste and texture has been an enriching experience, in realising how far this category can be pushed. The future is plant-based, start now,” he said.
Taste is indeed a driver. According to a recent study funded by Blue Horizon, taste, nutritional value, and health aspects “rank highest” when consumers are considering increasing their consumption of alternative proteins, said Bjoern Witte, Blue Horizon’s CEO. “Shaka Harry addresses all these points,” Witte said.
“Plant-based meats have a huge scope of acceptability in India, particularly among the growing flexitarian population,” says Sandeep Devgan, Co-founder, Shaka Harry.
“Yet not many brands have been able to make a mark due to the inability to replicate real meaty tastes in vegetarian profiles. That’s where Shaka Harry has been able to make a difference,” Devgan says.
“By partnering with top flavourists, who are masters in recreating impactful meaty top notes using vegetarian ingredients, we have been able to offer Indian consumers a first-of-its-kind ‘just-like-chicken’ and ‘just-like mutton experience’ minus the guilt.”
Shaka Harry has been working closely with the Good Food Institute India to develop the brand and market. GFI is a leading organization supporting the development of plant-based and cultivated alternatives to animal products.
“With leading companies like Shaka Harry bringing plant-based meats to consumers across India, the last year has been smart protein’s breakout moment in the country,” said Varun Deshpande, Managing Director, Good Food Institute India. “But funding in Indian smart protein companies continues to lag far behind, remaining at a tiny fraction of the $11b invested globally over the last decade.”
Deshpande says the funding raise supports the momentum swing happening for alternative protein in the country. While India currently has the world’s second-lowest rates of meat consumption behind Bangladesh, meat consumption continues to rise with the country’s rising income levels. Recent statistics from India Today show that nearly half of the population consumes non-vegetarian meals at least once a week.
India vs. climate change
The rise of alternative proteins is critical for India, according to Nagarajan, particularly when it comes to the country’s struggles with climate change. In March, Mumbai, India’s largest city by population, announced plans to go to net-zero 20 years ahead of the country’s targets.
The city said it will reach net-zero by 2050, if not sooner, as its slums and villages are particularly vulnerable to climate change. Climate models predict rising sea levels will bring floods to the region by mid-century.
“When we think about sustainability, we usually think about energy and transportation,” says Nagarajan.
“Food is an area that can move the sustainability needle much more. Winning a consumer segment in the food space needs a well-designed product range, deep expertise in taste and flavour, and consistent customer experience.”
Simon Newstead, founding partner of the alt-protein fund Better Bite Ventures says there’s reason to be optimistic about India’s future. “The nation has a clear opportunity to become a regional leader in plant-based foods and leapfrog other countries in adopting climate-friendly smart proteins, driven by a growing movement of conscious consumers motivated by taste, health, and the environment.”