Plant-based foods would grow from Rs 2,000 Cr to Rs 40,000 Cr, Sanjay Sethi, PBFIA

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    Sanjay Sethi, Executive Director, Plant Based Foods Industry Association

    India is a potential market for plant-based foods. It’s believed that up to 60% of people are open to  trying plant-based meat alternatives. Even though the majority of plant-based meat alternatives are  available on e-commerce websites, start-ups have problems entering because of very high listing fees. “Plant-based foods manufactured in India are prepared from base materials that are usually imported.  Lack of knowledge makes it difficult for  plant-based food companies to enter new markets,” Sanjay Sethi, Executive Director, Plant Based Foods Industry Association (PBFIA) informs Rural Marketing’s N Bobo Meitei. Excerpt of the interview.

    Kindly share some of the major initiatives PBFIA has undertaken so far to promote the awareness  of plant-based foods in India. 

    The Plant Based Foods Industry Association (PBFIA) is the first association for the plant-based foods  industry in India. It aims to be a dependable and ambitious organisation that provides a voice, determining what to do for the industry and the best ways to achieve that. The Indian industry of plant based foods is emerging strongly and is represented by enthusiastic youths who are motivated to make  a difference in the world. PBFIA is striving to empower these young, entrepreneurial minds and give  them opportunities where these startups measure their journey toward long-term business growth.  

    Since the inception in early 2022, PBFIA has led a delegation of plant-based foods industry  representatives to Dr. Sudhanshu, Secretary of APEDA, and Shri Prahlad Singh Patel, Minister of State for  Food Processing Industries and Jal Shaki. With the support of these institutions, the First Plant Based  Foods Summit was organized that brought more than 400 stakeholders including scientists and investors  under one roof. 

    PBFIA is collaborating with academic institutions, investors, technology-based companies and  government organisations, while regularly connecting with plant-based food companies to better  understand their difficulties. 

    With respect to creating awareness about plant-based foods, we are initiating a Plant-Based Navratri  Campaign – Navratri Se Shubharambh and appealing to people all over the nation to switch to plant based foods. 

    How much has the industry grown in India? What are the major challenges the industry is facing? 

    The industry for plant-based foods is expanding and actively seeking investments. Companies like Shaka  Harry and Alt Co have received funding in recent months. Looking ahead, we predict that in ten years,  the market for plant-based foods in India would grow from a meager Rs 2,000 crore to Rs 40,000 crore,  as per the report published by The Insight Partners and Plant Based Foods Industry Association. 

    The industry needs to overcome several hurdles as plant-based food products are subject to a high GST  rate (on an average 18%) in comparison to animal- based counterparts (subjected to an average 5%). Plant-based foods manufactured in India are prepared from base materials that are usually imported.  Specific HS codes are not defined yet, leading to the disparities in the custom duty rates of these raw  materials. There is a scarcity of information on export possibilities, regulations and labelling restrictions  on using certain nomenclature words from trading countries. Lack of knowledge makes it difficult for  plant-based food companies to enter new markets.

    Given the development already witnessed in the sector, the industry can accelerate to hit the goal well  ahead of the anticipated timeline and achieve economies of scale if these existing issues are resolved  soon. 

    How much is the Indian consumer ready for plant-based foods? 

    Many people are embracing plant-based diets and becoming flexitarians as a result of lifestyle changes,  affluence and environmental conscience. Thus, a change in consumer preference for plant-based foods  is noticeable. India is a potential market; according to some surveys, up to 60% of people are open to  trying plant-based meat alternatives. Even though the majority of plant-based meat alternatives are  available on e-commerce websites, start-ups have problems entering the retail and HoReCa markets  because of very high listing fees. More people will explore plant-based food options if this barrier is  overcome. 

    What measures would you like the government to introduce to help the industry grow? 

    Since the industry is made up of companies attempting to bring about change, we require policy support  to address some issues. The foremost request would be to bring a level playing field so that taxes on  plant-based products are in line with or below those of animal-based products. Specific HS codes are  needed for different categories of plant-based foods similar to how the codes are set for different  formats of animal-based products. Similarly, improvement in the supply chain to help increase availability of  products will play a crucial role in the acceptance of plant-based foods among people. We think that  support for plant-based food companies can be provided in order to link them with global markets  through participation in international trade-promoting events, as many startups are driving this  revolution ahead. 

    Read more: Plant-based meat: A smart protein?

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