By Mr. Dheeraj Talreja, President, AAK Kamani

Consumer interest in plant-based meat has been steadily rising over the past few years. This is because people are increasingly health and environment conscious. We hear the terms veganism, vegetarianism, and flexitarian much more today than we did say ten years ago. However, the rise of the plant-based foods industry has been very gradual and there aren’t too many takers for the product, but the current coronavirus pandemic has caused a clear shift in consumer preferences.

A report published by the World Economic Forum and Reuters last month said that suppliers are seeing  a surge in demand for plant-based protein foods in Asia because the Covid-19 has raised concerns over links between meat consumption and viral diseases. The trend of plant- based meat is also catching up in countries like Brazil and Mexico. And in China, the trend was already receiving a push because of newly imposed dietary guidelines that are aimed at reducing meat consumption by half.

Apart from the pandemic, there are several other trends and reasons that are pushing the plant-based foods industry into the limelight.

Climate Change

The climate crisis is significant reason driving the market for plant-based foods. Animal agriculture is responsible for 1318% of greenhouse gas emissions globally and people are becoming increasingly aware of this fact. There is also a generally increased awareness of the impact of our food habits on the environment and a growing number of people want to make the right choices for themselves and their families. Hence, plant-based eating has gradually become a popular trend among a significant demographic in wealthy western countries.

Health Benefits

The proven health benefits of plant-based eating are another reason why more and more people are moving towards plant-based foods. In the past decade, scores of studies have hinted at the increasing health benefits of plant-based diets. Studies have shown that people who consume more vegetables and legumes are less likely to be overweight compared to those who consume meat regularly. Diets like the Mediterranean-type diet that emphasize on plant-based foods and protein sources are now gaining popularity in the west that has long battled high rates of obesity and diabetes.

Plant-based dairy alternatives are also highly preferred by people with digestive issues such as lactose intolerance. Several plant-based dairy alternatives make for a better and healthier gut health. Plant-based milks also have longer shelf life in comparison to fresh dairy products and can be useful in unforeseen situations like the Covid-19 pandemic.

Clean Label Trend

Another up and coming trend of the ‘Clean Label’ has also contributed to plant-based eating and its cause. Clean label foods have easy to recognize ingredients that are natural, non-GMO, unprocessed, and contain no synthetic chemicals. Health food brands and companies are incorporating this concept through their offerings, products, and ethos. Companies are now well aware of the fact that the modern-day consumers are wary of artificial ingredients and their negative impact on health. Consumers want to know about how their food is grown, the steps of production, and the properties of the final product. Consumers are willing to pay a premium price to experience the benefits associated with clean-label ingredients. The Asia Pacific clean label market has registered an increase of 7.4%, making it the fastest-growing clean label market in the world. The primary reason for this steady growth is an increase in standard of living of consumers along with increase in their purchasing power.

Millennials!

Last but not least, Millennials are one of the biggest reasons why the plant-based foods industry is seeing a sudden uptick. The reason being, millennials are acutely health and environmentally conscious. They are also driven by the need to make an impact in the world and plant-based products offer them the unique chance to alleviate both the climate crisis and improve their health. 

Rise of the flexitarian diet

A few years ago, veganism was all the rage, but the flexitarian diet has been slowly denting the vegan market. Over time, many have found it cumbersome to adhere to a vegan diet’s strict parameters and have sought out a more flexible diet. Hence, the flexitarian diet was born; it entails not giving up meat or dairy completely but just making more way for non-meat and non-dairy products in one’s diet. Flexitarianism is increasingly popular as it allows for people to be environmentally friendly and health conscious along with some leeway to consume meat and dairy. According to a survey conducted by Nestlé, 87 percent of consumers in the US, including vegans and meat-eaters, are including plant-based protein into their diets, and over 50 percent of consumers in the UK are reportedly following a flexitarian diet.

A growing number of people following a flexitarian diet is driving the demand for dairy and meat alternatives that are made from plant-based ingredients. Plant-based cheeses, ready meals, seafood, and alternatives to eggs are among the biggest opportunities in the plant-based sector. According to figures provided by Markets and Markets—a market research firm based in India—this industry was valued at US$12.1 billion in 2019 and is predicted to grow at an annual rate around 15% reaching almost US$28 billion by 2025.

All the above reasons have led to an increasing number of global companies entering the plant-based foods market. Several fast-food restaurants and grocery stores across the globe are now selling vegan and plant-based food because they know that consumers are looking for ways to increase their daily intake of fruits and vegetables.

India too is an emerging market for plant-based foods and dairy alternatives. AAK Kamani recently partnered with the Good Food Institute (GFI) India to collaborate on research and business promotions aimed at advancing projects in this space.

According to Innova Market Insights, the Plant-Based Revolution ranks second out of the top ten food trends for 2020 that is expected to influence a host of new product developments (NPD) in the future. With support from the Good Food Institute India, AAK Kamani will also provide “Co-Development expertise” for guiding companies on how to accelerate the formulation of new products, with a focus on achieving optimal texture and appealing to local tastes.

AAK Kamani believes in the concept of plant-based foods and has introduced the AkoPlanet™ food solution which seeks to move towards a sustainable world. AkoPlanet™ focuses on co-Development facilities keeping sustainability at its core. Together with the customers, we develop great-tasting plant-based food made with love for people, plants, and the planet.

*The author is President in AAK Kamini and can be reached at dheeraj_talreja@huntsman.com

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