ITC, the first major Indian FMCG company to enter the Indian plant-based meats landscape, has announced its foray into the burgeoning space with meat alternative offerings. ITC wants to be an early mover in the growing plant-based sector domestically.

ITC has announced its foray into the burgeoning space with meat alternative offerings, including plant-based burger patties and nuggets. ITC wants to be an early mover in the growing plant-based sector domestically. Currently, there is no sizable pan-Indian brand in the country’s plant-based protein segment, which is brimming with potential. ITC also projects huge export market opportunities for a range of plant-based products that will appeal to the vast swathes of vegetarians and vegans and target meat eaters who also consume plant protein regularly in their diets and are already familiar with some formats.

The manufacturer of long-established and popular Indian food brands such as Aashirvaad atta (wheat flour) and packaged ready-to-eat versions of heritage dishes like daal makhani and paneer tikka, ITC’s plant-based products will be available through retail, e-commerce and foodservice establishments in India’s top eight cities. ITC has been advised by expert non-profit Good Food Institute India (GFI India) on honing its product and positioning strategy.

Research by GFI India indicates that 63% of non-vegetarians among urban, upwardly-mobile populations would be highly likely to purchase plant-based meats regularly, driven by guilt around meat-eating and curiosity and aspiration surrounding next-generation plant-based meat products. “Smart protein and plant-based meats are a generational opportunity to align planetary health stewardship, public health resilience and economic growth,” said Varun Deshpande, Managing Director, GFI India.

“ITC Ltd’s visionary foray into plant-based meats and focus on providing non-vegetarian eaters with the meat products they know and love will further accelerate the sector, bringing delicious, sustainable protein into the true mass market and onto plates across the country,” said Deshpande.

“There is no large pan-Indian brand in the plant-based protein segment in India.,” Hemant Malik, divisional chief executive of ITC confirmed. “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. The meat market is huge with 72% 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.”

Initial offerings will be centred around pea protein. Developments with legumes and soy are ongoing.

In May, Unilever partnered with food-tech company Enough (formerly 3F BIO) to bolster its plant-based strategy by tapping into technology that uses a zero-waste fermentation process to grow a high-quality protein. Nestlé continues to sharpen its plant-based focus by developing a wide range of plant-based dairy alternatives and meat and fish-free products like Vuna, a plant-based alternative to Tuna. Meanwhile, plant-based meat start-ups like Riteish & Genelia Deshmukh’s Imagine Meats and Sandeep Singh’s Blue Tribe Foods have captured the Indian imagination.