Plant based foods witnessed an unexpected uptake in 2020, especially in developing countries, where the growth in demand was driven by a keen sense of curiosity, as well as, an inclination towards ethical living. The Covid 19 pandemic also contributed to the rise as people became aware of the calamitous consequences of animal agriculture. What was considered a fad till a few years back, has now become a mainstream lifestyle that is compassionate and more in sync with nature. To make the most out of this huge surge in demand, several new brands also ventured into the segment. Today, plant based foods are readily available across the country and almost every day we see a new company entering this highly lucrative market.
Although ‘The Economist’ called 2019 ‘the year of the vegan’, we can most definitely say that this title suits 2020 better. With just a few more days left before we bid adieu to the roller coaster year, here are some plant based foods trends that we believe Indians must watch out for!
#1 Plant Based Egg
India became one of the frontrunners in this segment with companies such as Evo Foods and PlantMade making headlines across the world. Evo Foods is a clean protein company that is ready with Asia’s first plant-based liquid egg replica, and recently emerged as one of the finalists at a global pitch competition. PlantMade too has been working with IIT-Delhi to launch a slew of plant based meat alternatives, and has already hit the market with its first product – a liquid vegan egg made from moong dal and chickpeas. Plant based eggs made from legumes are going to be one of the most popular foods in 2021 and we believe there are opportunities galore in this segment.
#2 Plant Based Meat
When the year began, there were hardly a couple of options in plant based meat alternatives, but today we have totally lost count. According to the Good Food Institute, about 63% of the Indians are ‘likely to purchase’ plant-based meat regularly and this number is expected to go up in 2021. Mock meat made from textured vegetable protein is going to rule the plant based market in the coming year. One of the most talked about brands in this segment – Imagine Meats – is also expected to hit the shelves with its meat alternatives in 2021. Just recently, Domino’s too launched a plant based meat pizza for vegetarians in India. The past year has given us numerous options in mock meat and we expect the trend to become stronger in 2021.
#3 Plant Based Milks and Cheese
The best way to sum up the growth of plant based milks in India is to remember how India’s largest dairy brand had to move the court in order to ban the usage of the word ‘milk’ by plant based milk producers. It has put the focus back on how plant based milks are set to disrupt the market and eat into the share of dairy producers in the coming years. With unlimited options available in plant milks today, both vegan and lactose intolerant consumers have switched to these healthier alternatives to dairy milk. The year 2021 will see more brands coming into this space. Similar to what happened in the West, Soy milk will see a slower growth in demand as the market is expected to be flooded with milks made from healthier alternatives such as almonds, cashew, oats, coconut, rice, hemp and even pistachios.
Cheese is one food that many vegans miss badly. Thankfully, things are not so grim in this space anymore and Indian vegans have a range of cheese options to choose from. Vegan cheese is made from soy, nuts, seeds, coconut, and even flour. Today, we have plant based cheeses in cheddar, mozzarella and even feta versions available in India. 2021 will see even more varieties and brands coming in and vegan cheese lovers will have more reasons to rejoice.
#4 Texture and Taste
Over the last two years, India has seen several new vegan brands entering the market and the focus has been on introducing newer varieties of meat alternatives and fermented foods. In the coming year, attention will shift to the texture and taste of these products. The main idea will be to bring these foods as close as possible to their animal-derived alternatives, in terms of the taste, mouth feel and texture. A lot of R&D is expected in this area in 2021.
According to a recent study, the plant-based food market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 11.9 percent from 2020 to 2027 to reach $74.2 billion by 2027. A major chunk of this growth is expected to come from Asia, where plant based foods are rapidly becoming mainstream. India too will play a key role in this growth as a large part of its demography is made up of millennials who are willing to experiment with new types of foods and are more aware of environmental issues. In such a scenario, it is likely that investors would be eyeing the plant based sector in India.
The past year also saw the launch of ‘The India Alternative Protein Fund’, which will run an accelerator in 2021 to give a boost to companies focused on innovative plant-based, fermentation-derived, and cultivated meat, seafood, egg, and dairy foods.
#6 Sustainability and Health
Plant based packaged foods are not always healthy and sustainable; a lot of them are highly processed making them unfit for regular consumption. This is expected to change in 2021, when these companies will strive to offer healthier foods, and also lower their carbon footprint. There will be a renewed focus on health and sustainability aspects, and companies will launch products that are low in saturated fats and sugars. There will also be a shift towards eco friendly packaging in order to make vegan and plant based products even more sustainable. Foods coming from regenerative agriculture will also be a new area that plant based companies will explore.
#7 Small – The Big New in Snacking
With people busy in their hectic lives, one of the most sought after snacking options come in the form of health bars and single serve packets. Snacks have even replaced regular meals for some individuals, and therefore, it becomes important that such snacks are pumped with all required nutrients. Companies have understood the need pretty well and are today offering a slew of high protein, high energy, nutritious options for snacking. Interestingly, most of such options are vegan friendly as they do not use dairy products as ingredients. Brands in India are experimenting with clean energy bars that use ingredients such as saffron, amaranth, dried berries, nut butter, coconut oil, grains, millets, etc. We can see this trend in snacking to pick up pace in 2021.
Year 2021 is About Choosing Wisely
The year 2020 has made us reconsider our food habits and introspect. It also shattered several myths related to our food choices. The coming year will be different. It will be THE year to choose what to put inside our bodies; to choose compassion and health over suffering and diseases. We are hopeful that 2021 will see the plant based and vegan movement intensify like never before.