Indian multinational moves into plant-based burgers and nuggets

14 Jan 2022

ITC, one of India’s largest corporations, announced it is entering the plant-based protein space through its ITC Master Chef brand where it will launch burger patties and chicken nuggets made from alternative protein sources. The conglomerate’s food business vertical will launch these products through direct-to-consumer retail and e-commerce as well as in foodservice establishments in eight of the country’s largest cities this month.

Initially, the company’s consumer-ready, plant-based products will rely on pea protein as their main ingredient. Going forward, ITC said it hopes to move into additional finished consumer goods as well as B2B ingredients, and it is working on researching and developing options that are legume- and soy-based to complement its initial offerings.

Indian multinational moves into plant-based burgers and nuggets
Image via ITC Master Chef

“There is no large pan-Indian brand in the plant-based protein segment in India,” Hemant Malik, Divisional Chief Executive - Foods, ITC Ltd said in the statement. “We want to enjoy the early mover advantage in India.”

While this large enterprise is looking to conquer the market through its sheer size and scale, it is not the only plant-based venture to take root in the country. Several startups have already made headway in the Indian market, with Imagine Meats, GoodDot, Vegolution and Blue Tribe Foods among the list of some of the more influential brands in the space. Nevertheless, ITC hopes to leverage its size and market might to become a dominant player in what the company says is a $45 billion market for plant-based protein in India.

While the majority of Indians are meat eaters — the company cited Kerry data showing that 70% of the country’s population is non-vegetarian — a large percentage of those consumers are searching for more sustainable alternatives. A study from the Irish ingredients company Kerry found that India is one of the key markets for companies interested in vegan and flexitarian product launches.

ITC, which is known for producing Aashirvaad atta and Sunfeast cookies as well as ready-to-eat heritage dishes, is advised by the Good Food Institute India (GFI India) which is guiding the market positioning and launch strategy for its plant-based Master Chef options.

With this launch, ITC is putting itself in competition with some of the global plant-based juggernauts, including Nestlé, Unilever, Globally, Beyond Meat and McDonald's, which sells the McPlant plant-based burger that was co-developed with Beyond Meat.

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