If you wish to relish mutton keema without a goat having to give up a pound of flesh, there is an alternative - plant-based meat. It is as nutritious as meat, tastes like meat, feels like meat, but is not meat.
A whole host of startups are turning meat-eating into a more palatable experience. Besides being cruelty-free, it is eco-friendly too, as animal agriculture is a leading driver of ecosystem loss and environmental degradation worldwide.
As veganism gains in popularity with celebrities, including superstar athletes such as Serena Williams and Virat Kohli advocating the benefits of a vegan diet, the trend is catching on fast. In the US, plant-based meat company Beyond Meat went public in 2019. The maker of meatless burgers Impossible Foods is planning to follow shortly.
Not only consumers, but investors are also turning conscious too as countries target net-zero emissions and food security. Last year, a record $3 billion was pumped into the alternative protein sector. That is more than what the sector had raised in a single year ever before.
Investments in smart protein startups in the Asia Pacific region went up by six times, showing that the epicentre of this innovation is shifting to Asia, according to a Good Food Institute report.
But, the demands of a hungry Indian are not easily met. So, how are India’s smart protein startups innovating and helping consumers turn vegan, without asking for a sacrifice of the meat-eating experience? CNBC-TV18's Shereen Bhan spoke to Abhishek Sinha, co-founder and CEO of GoodDot; Abhay Rangan, founder of Goodmylk and Varun Deshpande, managing director of The Good Food Institute India.
Sinha said, "I was a meat-eater and ex-meat eater. But I was also an animal lover. In my final year of engineering, I came across a study sponsored by the Dutch government on tissue culture-based meat. According to that study, millions of consumers would prefer to have non-violent meat on their plates. In 2013, I finally formed a team and worked together on this project, which has gone to the current situation right now. So we are quite happy how we are progressed since then."
Rangan said, "I think the experience has been very encouraging. I think we came in at the right time. People are looking at it from the lens of wanting to do something bigger, wanting to be a part of something more meaningful, rather than just looking at individual choices that we prioritise, taste or sensory pleasure for 5 or 10 minutes.”
Deshpande said, "We work across business science and policy to establish this sector so we are seeing kind of the whole board here. Products are going far beyond the previous generation of soy nuggets, or mock meats that have existed for decades or even generations. What we need to do here is enable a switch that feels like a simple switch, not a sacrifice. So for every type of consumer, whether it is meat-eaters, curious vegetarians, just people who are generally flexitarian, who are trying to reduce their consumption of meat, eggs and dairy and they are doing it for public health, for planetary health, for personal health, we need to enable that choice."
For the full interview, watch accompanying video...