Plant-based meat is catching up in India due to its health benefits and a growing consciousness to adopt a lifestyle that’s less harmful to the environment
New Delhi,UPDATED: Nov 27, 2022 20:04 IST
Plant based meat or ‘mock meat’ is emerging as a worthy food choice; (Photo: Rajwant Rawat)
By Shelly Anand: At a time when climate change has become a real threat, sustainability is much more than a fad. Being responsible and conscious about our everyday lifestyle choices is the need of the hour; it’s not just about clothes, energy and fuel consumption but also about our food choices. Welcome to the world of mock meat.
While the trend of mock or plant-based meat has been prevalent in the West, it’s comparatively new in India, with the bulk of sales driven by first-time consumers. The reasons for its rising popularity are plenty. From celebs, such as actor-couple Riteish Deshmukh and Genelia D’Souza and cricketer Virat Kohli and actor-wife Anushka Sharma, spreading awareness about plant-based meat options to health and environment-conscious individuals switching over to it, the mock meat category is making news for all the right reasons.
According to a study mentioned by the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, India’s meat substitutes market is expected to touch $47.57 million (about Rs 390 crore) by 2026. “India presents a unique opportunity for the plant-based meat category in general. We are a country full of guilty meat-eaters, Tuesday-vegetarians, and vegetarians seeking protein-rich food options. Our per capita consumption of animal-derived meat is one of the lowest in the world,” says Gaurav Sharma, founder and CEO of Greenest Foods, a plant-based meat brand. Vegetarian consumers believe shifting to a meat-based lifestyle will help fill in the protein gap in their diets.
What is mock meat?
Mock meat is a plant-based protein processed to resemble animal meat. Mock meats can be made from soya, wheat isolate, jackfruit, banana peels and watermelon through correct processing and techniques to obtain a meat-like texture and flavour. It may not provide you with all the proteins an animal meat would do. Sairaj Dhondh, founder and CEO of Wakao Foods, a brand that makes food products from jackfruit, however, says: “Plant-based meat can be a wonderful way to experience meat for vegetarians, vegans and others whose diets don’t include animal-based products.”
Mock meat is deficient in some minerals found in actual meat, such as iron and vitamin B, but it’s an excellent source of fibre and is low in saturated fat. For instance, Beyond Meat from the US, which has been launched in India by Allana Consumer Products, is made with simple peas and moong beans as the protein source. Most plant-based meat products are available in the form of burger patties, sausages, meatballs, nuggets, kebabs and tikkas.
A shift in the right direction
People are increasingly conscious of their dietary habits and are mindful of the nutrition components and healthy ingredients in their meals. Some people avoid meat for ‘moral’ reasons, also because there is now greater consciousness about animal cruelty. “Because of the rise in imitation meat and plant-based meat consumption, more industries are producing it to meet the growing demand. Vegetarians who want to eat meat but are unable to do so for moral reasons have a choice in the form of mock meat. It is also a big help for vegans,” explains Dhondh.
With consumers constantly seeking ‘better-for-you’ nutritious options made out of simpler and cleaner ingredients, without compromising on taste, the value proposition of plant-based meat fits perfectly well with their requirements. Milind Pingle, CEO, Allana Consumer Products, says: “Apart from health-focused individuals, many are environmentally conscious and would like to do their bit to save the planet. These consumers are shifting towards veganism.” This is also why plant-based proteins are gaining popularity in India.
Dhondh says three factors should be taken into account while selecting plant-based meat—the ingredients used to make the meat; nutritional value, particularly calorie levels; and a careful study of the product label to identify any additives. These can help in making the right food choices and ensuring that you consume plant-based meat safely.