Is vegan food successfully penetrating the Indian market?
With the number of vegans increasing by the day in India, a variety of healthy and delicious plant-based options are available
The popularity of vegan food has been slowly gaining momentum in India. Over the last few years, not only have people started to appreciate the concept of veganism but have adopted it in their lives too. According to a UN FAO report, India has the lowest rate of meat consumption in the world due to 44 per cent of the 1.3 billion population being Hindus. According to rough estimates, there were around 500 million vegetarians in India in 2020 and of these, only one per cent are strict vegans. So, the total number of vegans in India is around five million.
The word ‘vegan’ was coined in 1944 by Donald Watson, the co-founder of the Vegan Society. The term was initially used to describe ‘non-dairy vegetarians’, the Vegan Society updated the definition to: “…exclude all forms of animal exploitation…” in 1951.
Today, people have a variety of plant-based food options that are both healthy and tasty. And more and more of them are now preferring vegan diet and thus catering to this increasing number becomes an important task. To find out if the Indian food producers and restaurants are ready to cater to vegan customers and if the market is ready to take up the challenge of providing more plant-based food options, BWH got in touch with industry experts.
On how India is performing as a market for vegan customers, plant-based meat start-up Shaka Harry’s co-founder Anoop Haridasan says, “The vegan customers in India, although small currently, are growing rapidly. The product offerings, however, are quite limited, especially when customers are looking for a replacement of a meat-based product. However, achieving the same meat-like taste, texture and aroma, using only plant-based ingredients is a difficult task. We use the latest innovations to ensure that each product is developed such that even a meat-eater will enjoy the product just as much.”
Haridasan adds that there’s high demand for plant-based meat due to which his company has launched nine new products. “The demand is such that we had to make it available in Delhi and Mumbai ahead of schedule. We are now working to increase the availability of our product across the top few cities. In terms of our marketing, we have the dual work of brand creation as well as category creation so we are doing a lot of sampling and increasing the ways people can experience our products,” he says.
To cater to the increasing numbers, more and more restaurants and bakeries are now providing vegan dishes on the menu. “Veganism is not just a trend; it’s definitely here to stay. When I started, there were no vegan options and today vegan guests are offered dairy-free options on menus. People, post-pandemic, have become more conscious of food consumption. This has led to people opting for a plant-based lifestyle. The future is not plant-based, the present is,” shares Raveena Taurani, founder and CEO of plant-based café Yogisattva that took off in 2015.
Elaborating on the inclusive approach of her brand and the strategy adopted to attract not only vegan customers but everyone desirous of leading a healthy lifestyle, she says, “I don’t think it’s a market strategy rather than a core brand belief system at Yogisattva. I don’t believe in excluding anyone just because they choose to eat a certain way. I’m not here to preach about what I eat. I’m here to simply share what I eat with you.”
Sharing similar thoughts is Roma Roy Choudhury, founder, Evolved Foods, says the products can either be replaced with animal products or complement them. “Product positioning is relevant for anyone looking to make their meals low in fats and rich in proteins. Our message focuses on tasty, ready-to-cook protein to replace or complement paneer or meat in everyday meals. It’s versatile and can be easily cooked in a variety of ways. This positioning will attract people looking to make their daily meals healthy and protein-rich irrespective of their dietary preferences.”
Choudhury explains that some consumers may find vegan products overpriced as industries need to produce in volumes to achieve economy but at the same time, the population willing to pay is increasing by the day. “There is no denying the fact that some sections of consumers will find plant-based meat products overpriced. As one can expect from most emerging industries, the volumes need to increase for companies to achieve economies of scale that will eventually help in a trickle down to the end consumers and it is simply a matter of time as the ecosystem gets more robust and adoption goes up. However, at the same time, there is a growing population that is willing to pay a premium for plant-based meat, organic produce, ethically sourced products and sustainable alternatives,” she concludes.
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