With growing health consciousness, more people are opting for a plant-based diet. However, some are still in doubt because they crave animal protein. The people belonging to the second category have some good news in store. The alternative meat market is growing worldwide post the global pandemic. This growth is necessitated by the growing concerns over animal farming and food security. The link between high meat consumption and non-communicable diseases post the coronavirus scare has increased awareness via nutrition and health.
Alternative Meat Market: A New Potential
One of the top contributors to the challenges faced by the environment today is animal agriculture. Air and water pollution, emission of greenhouse gas, water shortages are all the by-products of animal farming. The massive number of fields used to feed the animals can be used for reforestation, larger biodiversity, and even used for renewable energy.
The factory farms are no more the traditional animal agriculture before and have consolidated under a few global companies. They have contributed to unsustainable environmental effects.
As the environmental and nutritional impacts of the meat industry and its consumption have raised new awareness, consumers and producers are looking for alternative channels to meet the demand for protein.
According to Elaine Siu, Managing Director of The Good Food Institute Asia Pacific, “in this era of instability and shocks cause by the pandemic, focusing on an opportunity like plant-based meat with low-risk value chain are growing.”
The global alternative meat product was $20.7 billion today alone and expects to grow to $23 billion by 2024 as per market research company Euromonitor. In Asia alone, the plant-based meat industry expects to grow by 25% over the past five years to USD 1.7 billion. The Asia Pacific market, specifically China and Thailand, expects to grow at a whopping 200% over the next five years as per DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences estimates.
Despite the huge potential for this burgeoning industry, obstacles remain. The main three main speed breakers are:
Cultural and social barriers
One of the major bottlenecks towards shifting to plant-based meat is the strong perception issues. Earlier, plant-based meat usage was limited to the followers of Buddhism in China. Then, it was seen that global production of Pork had nearly 50% of its source from Asia, with the majority of the production and consumer demand coming from China alone. This became an impediment for plant-based meat. They could never replicate the texture and taste beyond a basic level and were restricted to a limited group.
Objections from the traditional meat industry
The farmers and the cattle association in the U.S. filed a petition in 2018 asking for a relook in the definition of Meat and beef so that plant-based protein alternatives can be kept out. The main lobbying was that you couldn’t call plant-based products meats. However, the proposal to ban restaurants and shops from using words like burgers and sausages for alternative meat products was rejected in Europe.
Higher susceptibility to consumer confidence
Being relatively new to the market and unlike other products, meat alternatives face the challenge of replacing the well-entrenched taste buds of actual meat lovers. Add to this was the hostile response from meat producers that led to apprehension among the plant-based meat producers. They feared that any product loophole could lead to a massive recall and dent customer confidence.
Today the growth of this alternative meat is mainly attributed to the “instagrammibility’ of such products. Once the novelty fades away, the growth of this market could stagnate.
The alternative meat market size expects to be around 10% of the global meat industry at $140 billion within a decade. The main factors behind this growth are consumer awareness for health, nutrition, sustainability with improvement in the taste of plant-based meat products.
Some of the key findings point to the enormous potential of the plant-based market in Asia. More than three-quarters of Asians, around 78%, believe that plant-based meats are here to stay, and the trend will continue to last for a considerable period.
The Ipsos- Dupont research reports say that encouraging demand for plant-based meats forces businesses to diversify along with many new start-ups. Predictions for positive consumer demand, pricing, and long-term gains forecast with Asia as a key region are poised for handsome growth.
Another report by Zion Market Research released last year says the global plant-based meat market expects to grow by 8.6% annually to touch $21 billion by 2025, with Asia-Pacific having the largest share of the market propelled by its existing familiarity with soy-based vegan proteins such as tempeh and tofu.
An interesting meat alternative to pork – The Jackfruit
Dan Riegler co-founder of Karana, a Singapore-based start-up company, is now the first brand that produces plant-based meat. Its premier product is the alternative to Pork and made from Jackfruit, the first of its kind in the alternative meat segment. This pork substitute’s main ingredients are Jackfruit, oil, and salt, along with processed ingredients and preservatives.
According to Reigler, pork is the number one meat consumed in Southeast Asia, with China being the leading consumer. The demand for healthy food with high nutritious value is high in China. The main reason why people here are shifting to plant-based meats is that they want to lose weight without losing the taste and habit of eating meat.
Riegler and his cofounder Blair Crichton’s challenge was to find an environmentally friendly alternative that was close to the original meat product. They zeroed onto Jackfruit, a familiar item in South Asian cuisine as a vegan and vegetarian dish. The dense fibrous texture of Jackfruit came as a close resemblance to meat-like qualities. Sourcing the raw material from Sri Lanka was not a problem as the Jackfruit was abundantly produced there, with tonnes going to waste every year. This wastage was due to the complexity of preparing and cooking it.
Exploiting the full potential of Jackfruit
Jackfruit is a complex product to use even as it becomes increasingly evident that their interesting texture was closest to the pork properties. Working on this difficult raw material, the founders used their manufacturing hub to transform the shredded fruit into a meat-like product. The end product was convenient for chefs and consumers to use. This fuelled the appetite for ethical and sustainable alternative meat products, leading to investors, particularly, Venture capitalists investing $1.70 million in Karana in 2020.
Singapore saw the debut of Karana’s whole plant-based pork in nine restaurants with dishes in dumplings and local pork roll known as “ngoh hiang”. Hong Kong is the next to launch its new line of ready-made to cook jackfruit pork.
Reigler believes that the more the competition in this segment, the better it will be as consumers will increasingly get confidant about the new pork variant and switch easily. With major players like Beyond Meat also staking a claim in this segment, the alternative meat segment is already looking crowded yet innovative.
By choosing to eat more plant-based foods, one can drastically help in reducing carbon footprints and save precious water supplies. Also, vital crop resources are available to more people. With plenty of options available in plant-based meat alternatives, it has never been so exciting keeping the planet in mind.