Vegans and plant-based entrepreneurs have taken the world by storm by reimagining how we think about food. We initially saw the rise of vegan businesses with low-technology solutions. However, today we see a multitude of high-technology innovations creating unique and disruptive products that can cater to the unique needs of the Indian market. Vegan businesses are cultivating the future of India’s food, materials and testing methodologies.
This future looks like it’s been taken straight out of a science fiction novel – but is, in fact, rooted in scientific advancement. Companies like Seaspire are creating 3D-printed whole-cut plant-based fish fillets, Biodimension is using tissue engineering to eliminate the use of animals for safety testing, and Phyx44 is using microbes to replicate milk proteins. These companies are looking to redefine the norm and create solutions that reduce the consumption of animal-based products and will help build humane and sustainable production systems.
Fostering this kind of transformation requires innovative technology and investors who understand this market’s potential and its positive impacts on society. Investment in Indian vegan and plant-based start-ups is on the rise, with the Indian plant-based market projected to reach US$ 450 million by 2027 and with large funding rounds for companies like Evo Foods raising $4.3M, Shaka Harry raising $2M, GoodOne raising $1M, AltCo. securing $1M and many more.
This interest in animal alternatives is reflected even in the celebrity community, with Ritesh and Genelia Deshmukh launching their own plant-based meat brand Imagine Meats. They were soon followed by Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma, endorsing and investing in plant-based meat company Blue Tribe. The newest addition to this bandwagon is MS Dhoni, who recently secured stake in the plant-based protein startup ‘Shaka Harry. These celebrities have not only brought on awareness to the plant-based movement but also great confidence in the potency of the Indian vegan startup ecosystem.
Large fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and mainstream brands like TATA and ITC have also entered the market with their own variants catering to the vegan market. We are seeing multiple offerings of plant-based meats and milk taking over the shelves. ITC has launched its plant-based range under the brand Incredible, focussing on nuggets and burgers. TATA is the latest company to enter the plant-based meat segment in India with Simply Better, a range of vegan burger patties, nuggets and kebabs. Even Delightful Gourmet (Licious), one of India’s largest meat and meat products brands, has launched a plant-based products range. With so many large and small players now in this space, we hope to see the prices of these offerings becoming more competitive. Plant-based proteins in the US and UK are projected to reach price parity with their animal counterparts by 2023, according to a study published in July 2022 by the Boston Consulting Group. . All indicators currently point to Asia and India following suit.
Noting these opportunities in plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy, unique players are accelerating this innovative growth. Incubation and mentorship programs like Humane Society International/India’s Humane Entrepreneurship Program (HEP) are working exclusively with early-stage start-ups that are developing viable alternatives to animal-based products and methods for our food, material, and animal testing sectors. HEP has worked with 10 start-ups since 2020, providing opportunities to connect with more than 700 investors and more than 50 leading industry experts. The program also provided nearly 200 hours of intensive mentoring and coaching. Start-ups completing the program received cumulative funding offers of US $30.5M.
Alternatives to animal use have proven to be not just a force for the welfare of animals but also a stimulus for scientific innovation and business development. This socially conscious movement has inspired passionate people to build a robust ecosystem that supports sustainability and health. From scientific breakthroughs to real-world product availability on store shelves, we must truly celebrate how far we have come in our efforts to create a better world for all living creatures.
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