Flexitarians drive demand for meat alternatives in India as consumers seek tastier and more sustainable options

Radicle™ by Kerry plant-based solutions can meet India’s rising consumer calls for meat alternatives

New research produced by Kerry, the world’s leading taste and nutrition company, has revealed that India is a unique market for plant proteins, where vegetarians comprise one third of the population and the remaining 70% of non-vegetarians also consuming plant protein regularly in their diet. Defined as flexitarians, this consumer segment enjoys both meat and meat alternative and vegetarian foods, and is driving the plant-based shift from niche to mainstream in the region.

In India, 41% of the population already consume six or more types of plant proteins, with most meals comprising pulses, salads, lentils or cooked vegetables.

Gunjan Pandey, marketing director for Kerry Southwest Asia, said: “The opportunity and potential for plant protein foods in India is promising.  Currently, the region’s alternative meat market is valued at US$171m, and is expected to grow at 8.5% CAGR by 2025. The past five years have also seen consistent new launches with the number of meat substitute launches rising year-on-year.

“The numbers indicate a huge paradigm shift towards plant-based meat alternatives in India. While still at an early stage, this is fast catching up to the rest of the world, largely due to the fact there are already many vegetarians and vegetarian options in India. And while non-vegetarians prefer meat, they, along with vegetarians and vegans, are willing to try plant-based alternatives and experiment with its textures and flavours.

“In India, the top three top reasons for this shift to meat alternatives are health benefits, the desire for variety and growing awareness of the importance of sustainable eating. In fact, 63% of Indian consumers are very or extremely likely to purchase plant-based meat regularly. They are willing to try plant proteins in familiar formats, both Indian and western, and an estimate 60% are ready to pay a premium for it.”

As it stands, the global alternative meat market is set to grow at a 14% CAGR over the next five years, and is projected to hit $9.5bn by 2023. Asia is currently the second largest region in the world for plant-based meat alternatives, accounting for 22% of global sales by value and is expected to be the world’s largest market by 2025.

However, this new research reveals a significant unmet need in Asia regarding providing consumers with alternatives they value.

Ronan Moloney, vice-president and general manager of Food and Meat at Kerry Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa, said: “Consumers are seeking products that have superior taste, texture, and nutrition but that also align with local or regional cuisines or tastes. However, many plant-based products fall short of these expectations with 70% of consumers in Asia Pacific saying that taste and texture of current meat alternatives do not match that of real meat, but add they would make plant-based foods a regular part of their diet if this were resolved.

“While taste is the most important attribute for plant-based foods, creating delicious plant-based meat alternatives that consumers want can be a complex, costly and challenging process, particularly around savoury taste and creating succulence, juiciness and a moreish flavour. Radicle™ by Kerry takes a holistic approach across four pillars: Taste, with taste systems developed for plant protein to mask off notes and build delicious savoury taste; functionality, focused on texture, performance and freshness for the best eating experience; sustainability, with plant bases containing functional and sensorial benefits; and nutrition for enriched, nutritionally-optimised plant-based products.”

Pandey, said: “With an incredibly high percentage of the Indian population open to consuming meat alternatives, India presents a dynamic opportunity for brands to capitalise on this growing demand by creating innovative, nutritious and great tasting plant-based foods that would be the consumer choice, not the alternative.”