Nourishing the Needs of India’s Plant Protein Consumer

Like much of the rest of the world, consumers in India are focusing on diet and lifestyle. Longevity has begun to play a big role in how consumers live. They appreciate that eating less meat can lead to a longer, healthier life. 

Among the majority of Indian consumers, enhanced nutrition, good taste and novelty and variety are key reasons for choosing meat alternatives. As it stands, a Mintel report shows that 41% of the population consume six or more types of plant protein regularly. 

Compared to greater Asia, India presents distinct and very specific motivations for shifting to plant-based proteins. One of which is an evolving food culture that leans towards experimentation. Along with the move towards health and nutrition, research shows that while meat is not essential, the inclination towards meat alternatives is driven by taste.

In India, there are four plant protein consumer segments: 
  • The need for me++: Self-motivated, these consumers subscribe to a healthier diet, keep fit through regular exercise, and often make their own options when it comes to healthy nutrition. 

  • The Rx Prescriptors: This segment of consumer is encouraged to turn to meat alternatives for healthier nutrition.

  • The Food Tourist: Clued in on the latest food trends, the Food Tourist consumer is curious, adventurous and open to trying meat alternatives.

  • The Activist: Meat alternatives appeal to this consumer type who are advocates of animal welfare and the environment.

Today, we are seeing more Indian consumers moving towards a flexible diet that lets them enjoy both meat and alternatives, broadening their dietary options in meeting their health  goals. This opens the door to new foods including meat alternatives that deliver on the priorities of better health and nutrition. While a third of the population are staunch vegetarians, there is a strong secondary market for plant-based foods. “Looks like meat, tastes like meat, but better for you and the environment” is the flexitarian philosophy around plant-based foods. However different drivers and barriers exist for vegetarians. For variety, the majority of India’s vegetarians have tried alternative sources of protein such as soya, pea or jackfruit, but the traditional preference is paneer.

With over 55% of consumers focused on nutrition as a key reason to try meat alternatives, and 38% on variety, there is significant appeal in an offering that delivers both.

“With 70% of the population open to consuming meat alternatives, India presents a dynamic opportunity for innovative, nutritious and great-tasting plant-based foods. When it comes to meat alternatives, Indian consumers are interested in enhanced nutrition, taste and variety, and how well it translates to a favourite dish or local cuisine,” said Gunjan Pandey, Marketing Director, Southwest Asia, Kerry. 

Pandey added: “Consumers have higher expectations.  Besides the demand for authentic taste and flavour, offering plant-based foods with familiar local tastes like tandoori, kadhai and biryani, and in acceptable formats, will further attract consumers.”

Today’s chefs and food service professionals are already innovating, with the help of versatile ingredients and flavours across the menu to keep up with customers’ expectations. When it comes to cooking with plant-based proteins, the options are limitless. Kerry’s versatile Radicle portfolio of plant-based solutions can be used across all types of cuisine and applied to a wide range of flavours, tastes and formats, from western burgers to traditional biryani to snacks like samosas. Radicle is also suitable for multiple cooking methods including frying, baking, grilling and pan searing.

With plant-based products now being marketed to a wider audience that includes flexitarians and traditional meat eaters, rather than just vegans and vegetarians, this is a pivotal moment for the food industry to create plant-based meat that not only pleases consumers but becomes their first choice, rather than the alternative.