Diversified conglomerate ITC Ltd has forayed into plant-based meat market. According to the company, its food business vertical will launch plant-based burger patties and nuggets providing the taste of chicken to consumers through retail, e-commerce and food service establishments in eight cities.

It would be advised by non-profit Good Food Institute India (GFI India) on product and positioning strategy, said a press statement by the company.

According to a research by GFI India, 63 per cent of non-vegetarians among urban, upwardly-mobile populations would be extremely likely to purchase plant-based meat regularly.

The entry of ITC Ltd, which manufactures Indian food brands such as Aashirvaad atta (wheat flour), and also packaged ready-to-eat versions of heritage dishes such as daalmakhani and paneer tikka , into the plant-based space is likely to make an impact not just domestically, but in the huge export market as well, the release added .

ITC eyes early-mover advantage

“There is no large pan-Indian brand in the plant-based protein segment in India. We have worked with some global partners to ensure there is no compromise either on the product texture, quality, and taste. We want to enjoy the early mover advantage in India,” Hemant Malik, Divisional Chief Executive - Foods, ITC Ltd said in the statement.

“The meat market is huge with 72 per cent of Indians being non-vegetarians and [the market] is estimated today at $45 billion. Given the growing concerns around wellness and sustainability, India has the potential to emerge as a large market for plant-based alternatives,” he added.

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According to Varun Deshpande, Managing Director at GFI India, smart protein and plant-based meats are a generational opportunity to align planetary health stewardship, public health resilience and economic growth.

The global smart protein sector attracted over $3.5 billion in venture capital in 2021 (following $3.1 billion in 2020), indicating that investors and consumers worldwide are warming up to the idea of conscious consumption. Large food and conventional meat corporations such as JBS, Tyson Foods, Nestle and Unilever have also invested significantly in this space.