The latest consumer report, ‘Food For Thought, The Untapped Climate Opportunity in Alternative Protein’ published, July 2022, shows health as the top criteria for purchase among consumers, gradually motivating them to consume alternative proteins with high nutritional value. Plant-based milk, plant-based cheese, tofu, and plant-based meat are some of the most popular choices of alternative proteins consumed.

This health-focused trend has been more pronounced after the pandemic, where more than half the consumers surveyed have increased their consumption of alternative proteins — stating health and increased awareness of animal plight as reasons. Multiple reports also pointed to the fact that intensive animal agriculture could spark the next pandemic. These alarming concerns have led consumers around the world to cut down their meat consumption and transition towards a sustainable and healthier plant-based diet and alternative proteins.

Investments pour in

This demand has had a snowball effect on the plant-based industry. In two years, the sector has witnessed a rise in investments – from $1 billion in 2019 to $5 billion in 2021. In India, the plant-based industry is projected at $450 million in five years.

Plant-based products are poised to reach cost parity with traditional animal-based products by 2023 in the United States and European Union driving trends in Asia-Pacific and India as well. The adoption rate is expected to double, and consumers shift to alternative proteins — if producers can reach better pricing, along with better taste and nutrition. In India, health and ethical reasons were found to be great drivers for first purchases, however, taste and price were found to drive repeat purchases.

While consumers are finding a variety of plant-based options, there is a greater demand for less processed products, with fewer ingredients and better nutritional value. This also means, if health and nutrition are not addressed by entrepreneurs they could face greater resistance in adoption of plant-based offerings. Health attributes that entrepreneurs could focus on, include shorter ingredient lists, lower sodium content, improved nutritional balance, and targeted nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and vitamin B12.

Based on these insights, entrepreneurs, investors and corporates will focus on enterprises in the plant-based protein sector that deliver a balance between health, nutrition, taste, and price.

(The writer is Manager (Humane Entrepreneur Program) at Humane Society International India. Views are personal.)