mock meat is going mainstream
“nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet”. physicist Albert Einstein said these words in 1954 during the time he embraced vegetarianism. and today, the world is turning to plant-based diets.
Indians are taking lessons too. apart from the keemas, burgers, and meatballs, even the staple egg now has vegetarian alternatives. the market, according to a September 2021 study, has ballooned to $30-40 million. with the rising popularity, corporate giants such as ITC and Nestle have also jumped onto the mock meat bandwagon.
FMCG major ITC announced that it will launch a host of plant-based meat products anticipating the rising demand for meat substitutes and vegan meals. in the first phase, the company is launching plant-based burger patties and nuggets which mimic the taste of chicken and are the two largest non-vegetarian frozen food categories.
the meatless revolution in the West began about eight years ago when Los Angeles-based Beyond Meat began selling its mock chicken and meat substitute for pork/beef sausages. this was followed by Impossible Foods’ beefless burger launch in 2016.
India, on the other hand, saw standalone companies like GoodDot, Veggie Champ, and Wakao Foods joining this list. but once the demand picked up, bigger corporations also stepped in.
in 2021, Unilever said that it will partner with food-tech company ENOUGH to bring new plant-based meat products to market. this was a logical expansion for the consumer goods giant that already has a meat-alternative brand, The Vegetarian Butcher, which grew over 70% in 2020.
during the same year, Nestle announced its plans to cater to the ‘flexitarians’ (meat-eating persons who are cutting down slowly) by launching nutritional plant-based alternatives to shrimp and eggs. going a step forward, it also launched a vegan KitKat bar.
in urban India, changes have started taking place. according to Research and Markets, India’s meat substitutes market will see an average annual growth rate of 7.5% during 2021-2026.
the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations ranks India as one of the lowest meat-consuming countries in the world, with annual per capita meat consumption estimated at 4.5 kilograms. chicken accounts for half of this meat consumption, followed by buffalo meat, mutton, and other meats.
with changes in eating patterns, emerging startups and established brands are filling in the gap to provide cheaper and more nutritious meat alternatives.
Burger King, for instance, has moved to plant-based nuggets after the success of its meatless Whopper burger. it is also testing a potato-patty sandwich in Japan.
similarly, Domino's India operated by Jubilant FoodWorks introduced a plant-based meat pizza, which was among the first QSR changes to launch meat alternatives in the country.
the trend is also fuelling newer entrepreneurs to enter the fray. plant-based food startup Imagine Meats set up by Bollywood actors Riteish and Genelia Deshmukh made its debut last year. it is a partnership with US-based food processing firm Archer Daniels Midland and offers meatless alternatives to popular dishes such as mutton keema, butter chicken, chicken nuggets, burgers, and even biryani.
as meat is slowly replaced on food plates by plant-based alternatives, diversified product and business categories will emerge among India’s food companies.
Unilever, for instance, is making million-dollar investments into meatless food research. it has set a goal to hit $1.13 billion in annual sales of plant-based meat and dairy alternatives between 2025–2027. that’s about a five-fold increase from the company’s 2020 figures.
eventually, a plant-based diet is good for the environment too. A study showed that animal-based foods account for 57% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, while plant-based ones make up 29% only.
the EAT-Lancet Commission said that plant-based diets could help cut CO2 emissions by up to 80%, a factor that could reduce the climate change risks.
and this is why the meatless movement has begun in full force. a BCG report said that the global meat-free sector is expected to hit US$290 billion in 2035, by which point there could be realistic alternatives for the popular meat dishes.
in fact, it predicted that the shift to plant-based meat and eggs alone will save more than one gigaton of CO2 equivalent by 2035. this is the equivalent of Japan becoming carbon-neutral for an entire year. it will also save 39 billion cubic meters of water, enough to supply the entire city of London for 40 years.
while our taste palates evolve to accommodate plant-based alternatives, this switch to mock meat also presents a rare opportunity to minimize climate risks. with just one lifestyle change, our planet will become more livable.