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Plant-based market in India to be worth Rs 81,000 crore

India is witnessing a surge in demand for plant-based products like plant-based meat, plant-based dairy, plant-based nutraceuticals.

Plant-based food products are finished food products composed from components derived from plants, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes. A growing section of the population is opting for plant-based food products, especially plant-based “meat”, to lead better and healthier lifestyles. According to a research conducted in 2020, 62.8% Indians are extremely likely to buy plant-based products, while 48.7% of the Indian population would still choose to eat meat from conventional sources.

The recent episode of the global Covid-19 pandemic helped accelerate the push towards plant-based products like never before. The pandemic made people realise the value of life, thus compelling many to switch to healthier lifestyles in that phase. The transition towards plant-based foods is growing as people are consciously cutting down on consumption of traditional meat sources.

Plant-based foods offer a lower fat content, higher fibre content, better control over weight management, equivalent amounts of nutrition through cleaner and leaner foods and easier digestion as compared to the conventional sources of meat.

Not just India, the global market is also experiencing a growth trend in the demand for plant-based foods. Analysts predict the growth of the plant-based market in India at a CAGR of 19.75% by 2025 and estimate its value at Rs 81,000 crore. The colossal increase in the demand proves that people are eager to switch to better control over their health and are well aware of the benefits of these products.

Opting for plant-based products also carry major environmental and moral benefits. Studies have proven that the meat industry is responsible for almost 60% of all greenhouse emissions from food production. Apart from the environmental advantage, dependency on vulnerable livestock animals is also reduced, thereby making such foods cruelty-free.

Apart from the plant-based meat industry, the market for plant-based milk alternatives is also on the rise. With easy access to the informational content and a higher awareness of self, many people possess knowledge about lactose intolerance and conditions resulting from dairy products. Hence, the demand for plant-based dairy products is rising.

Additionally, plant-based dairy products also come with a certain level of fortification as they don’t have nutritional content present in them naturally when compared with dairy products. Fortification increases their nutritional value to be either equivalent or higher than the dairy products.

The benefits of adopting a plant-based diet include improved health and reduced risk of obesity, diabetes and cancer. It also reduces carbon footprint and helps conserve natural resources. A study conducted in 2021 showed that use of animals for food is responsible for 57% of all food production emissions. Large areas of additional land are needed to grow the feed that grazing animals need, and this additional land is frequently cleared by cutting down trees in forests. According to the study’s calculations, most of the cropland in the world is utilised to feed cattle rather than people. Additionally, livestock emit a significant amount of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Extensive promotion and marketing of these products by famous personalities have led to a monumental impact on the consumers, which justifies the surge in sales. As the plant-based products market is just picking up steam in India, consumers are at advantage due to the competitiveness between multiple manufacturers. To stay buoyant, manufacturers will have to rely heavily on technology to ensure that they are ahead of their competitors.

In addition to technology, manufacturers must introduce innovation in terms of product variants and their taste to be relevant in the Indian market, as Indian food offers diversity in taste and cuisine. It is an uphill task for the manufacturers to strike a chord with the consumers in that regard.

Another huge challenge for the plant-based food manufacturers, specifically the plant-based meat manufacturers, is replicating the exact taste, texture, taste, feel and appearance of the traditional meats. Further, plant-based foods lack in essential nutrients like Vitamin B12 and calcium. Nutrient deficiency is a common problem faced by people who have adopted vegan diet.

Although plant-based foods are more nutritious given their low fat and cholesterol contents, people following veganism are prone to nutrient deficiency. Hence, fortification is a must for such products. Along with fortification, research is required to find more sources of high quality protein and other nutrients.

In the current market, plant-based food products are more expensive than conventional meat sources. This could prove to be a deal-breaker for the consumers looking for cost-effective plant-based food products. Apart from the mentioned issues, the plant-based food products stare at a logistical supply chain problem.

As most of the plant-based foods require cold storage facilities even while transportation, manufacturers fail to find a proper channel for supply and distribution of their products. Resultantly, it affects the availability of those products scarce in the local market. Consumers have to rely on a limited number of channels, most likely the manufacturers’ websites, for buying their products. In addition to these challenges, the regulatory struggles for the plant-based food industry are higher than other food tech industries.

Although the plant-based food industry is still in its formative years, its demand is only growing. With the right approach, pricing and strategy, manufacturers of plant-based food products could be a hit with the consumers.

Undoubtedly, the category is revolutionary and is certainly aimed at creating a healthy wave amongst the consumers. It provides a higher quality and cleaner source of protein than its traditional meat counterparts. An increasing number of health-conscious consumers are driving this sector towards success. A lot of confusion still exists in consumers’ minds regarding plant-based substitutes, but the market is performing good, thanks to the influence of celebrities and prominent personalities through advertisements and marketing.

A larger section of consumers is already aware of the benefits of plant-based food products. The boom in the plant-based food industry is not far away from being the daily preference in Indian homes.

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