Sanjay Sethi, executive director of the Plant Based Foods Industry Association, spoke about the plant-based food industry and its growth prospects in an interview.
What is the size of the vegetable protein market in the country? In India, where the dairy and chicken industries are huge, what is the scope of the plant-based protein market?
India’s vegetable protein market occupies about 10 percent of the Asia-Pacific (APAC) vegetable protein market. As the largest growth in the alternative protein sector is expected in the APAC region, we can expect a huge increase in the number of start-ups, which will increase the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and sustainable development.
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The market for plant proteins in India will grow from $ 347.1 million in 2018 to $ 565 million in 2023. While these estimates cover all plant bases from protein powders to meat alternatives, there is a clear increase in consumer awareness of the benefits of choosing plant-based proteins.
As the world moves towards a more plant-based diet, Indian consumers are increasingly moving upwards, allowing them to afford these plant-based alternatives. The price of alternatives is also slowly declining as production capacity increases. This will ultimately make plant-based alternative products feasible for people with a broad socio-economic background.
Increasing consumer demand for these products due to their health benefits, including the prevention or reduction of the risk of non-communicable diseases, indigestion and obesity. Covid-19 has also contributed to the growing popularity of these products, as they are considered to be “immune-boosting” while reducing the risk of zoonotic diseases spreading from pets to humans (preventing an epidemic / pandemic).
At present, plant-based startups in India face a number of challenges and the existing spaces make it difficult for them to grow at the desired rate. But it must not be forgotten that it took decades of huge investment, state aid and subsidies in the dairy and poultry industry to develop, establish and make India the leading producer of the former, the fifth largest producer in the latter. Similar investments and state subsidies will result in exponential growth in the crop-based sector.
Can plant-derived proteins compete with or replace animal-derived proteins in terms of essential properties and nutrition?
The need to include animal-derived proteins can be easily avoided, either in a properly designed diet or in any protein alternative (e.g., plant-based protein powders, tofu).
However, 80 percent of Indians are protein deficient, which should be taken into account when developing new plant-based alternative products. Animal protein provides a complete source of protein. It has also been linked to various negative health effects. Meanwhile, plant-based products or vegetarian products provide a complete nutrient in addition to protein, without shadows.
All the essential nutrients found in foods of animal origin can also be found in plant-based foods. However, certain supplements are needed, such as vitamins B12 and D. But plant-based foods also provide a way to bypass unwanted compounds such as cholesterol and high levels of saturated fat in foods of animal origin. Enhancing the nutritional properties of plant-derived proteins is possible in a variety of ways. One example is conventional fermentation, which is especially true for raising B vitamin levels.
How economical is plant-based protein? Can such a protein compete with whey and other protein supplements?
While animal foods may have a higher protein density per gram, plant proteins can avoid many of the pitfalls associated with consuming animal-derived proteins. Plant proteins stand out because they are healthier and more sustainable in the long run. Protein alternatives developed from many plants, such as peas, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, and even native millet, are gaining popularity because they have the same nutritional composition as meat, whey, or even eggs, and have no side effects from animal consumption. . based proteins. In the case of vegetable proteins, price parity is very easily achievable, as can be seen with the growing demand.
Vegetable protein is really economical. Even with relatively less production of plant-based foods, plant-based proteins are offered on the market at prices similar to whey proteins. With the growing demand of India’s flexic / reducing population, demand and production will spin up until eventually the price will fall.
What plans does the industry have to make this protein more popular and acceptable in India?
Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Ranges (AMDRs) are 45 to 65 percent of daily calories from carbohydrates, 20 to 35 percent from fats, and 10 to 35 percent from protein. The Indian diet has always included many plants. According to some estimates, India consumes the second lowest amount of food of animal origin in the world. We consider this to be an advantage, as the average person already knows that plant-based foods are an essential part of our diet. The Indian Market Research Bureau suggests that Indians have a protein deficiency of more than 80 per cent, and the latest National Sample Survey shows that per capita protein consumption in India is declining in both urban and rural areas.
Consumers have shifted from cereals to protein-rich diets over the past decade, and their receptive attitude greatly influences the successful integration of these proteins. The food processing industry is one of the few sectors for which the government allows 100 percent foreign direct investment, and this has launched more and more joint ventures between Indian companies and international food processors in the field of plant-based meat. Government support to attract foreign direct investment in the food processing sector.
For the idea of plant-based proteins to be acceptable, industry needs to educate consumers about the benefits of a plant-based diet and demonstrate that these alternatives have additional health and sustainability benefits. It is important to note that alternatives such as soybeans, soybean semolina, jackfruit, tofu have been embraced by several Indians and are recognized as alternatives.