The Market Potential Of Meat Alternatives In India
Over one billion people live in India. Despite the common perception that the majority of the population is vegetarian, more than 70% eat meat at least occasionally, and consumption of chicken, mutton, and fish is spiraling upward. Given the many harmful consequences of increased meat consumption (related to greenhouse gas emissions, food security, and human health among others), this upward trend is a problem.
Shifting consumption patterns toward meat alternatives such as plant-based meat, clean (i.e. cell-based) meat, and plant proteins would help address the global issue of rising meat consumption. Previous studies have examined attitudes toward meat alternatives in developed countries, but there’s a gap in knowledge with respect to attitudes in developing countries. In this study, the authors survey Indian consumers on their willingness to pay for such meat alternatives.
The survey took place in Mumbai in December 2018, and was delivered in both English and Hindi. The 394 survey participants were asked to choose between four protein sources at various price points: animal meat, plant-based meat, clean meat, and chickpeas – a traditional vegetarian alternative with a high protein content. Near-literal translations were used for the different types of meat (saadharan maans, paudhon pe aadharit maans, and saaf maans for animal, plant-based, and clean meat respectively). The authors also collected demographic information, including on diet, finding that 35% of participants identified as vegetarian.
Based on preferences revealed through the survey results, the authors divided participants into four consumer segments, referred to as classes. Class 1 was more vegetarian; people in this class displayed a strong preference for chickpeas. The other classes were primarily non-vegetarians; class 2 leaned toward conventional meat, class 3 toward plant-based meat, and class 4 toward clean meat.
Comparing the class sizes showed positive signs for the market for plant-based and clean meat in India. Class 3 (those who prefer plant-based meat) was the largest, at 32% of the sample; together with class 4 (clean meat) it made up over half the sample. Aside from class 1, all classes preferred conventional meat to chickpeas, suggesting that the lack of available alternatives is a significant barrier to reducing meat consumption. The study also looked at the demographics of these four classes (e.g., might income or education predict class membership?), but found no predictors that could reliably be used for targeted marketing.
Using their survey data, the authors estimated the changes in price necessary for a 50% shift in market share of animal, plant-based, and clean meat. To decrease by 50% the market share of animal meat, its price would need to go up by almost two thirds (63%). To increase the market share of plant-based meat by 50%, its price would need to drop by almost two thirds (65%), and for clean meat, this figure goes up to 95%.
The study provides valuable information on the market for meat alternatives, with plant-based options looking particularly promising. The data gathered on willingness to pay can also help guide policymakers looking into ways of reducing consumption of animal products, e.g. through taxing animal meat or subsidizing meat alternatives.
Consumer interest demonstrated in this study is an encouraging sign for the future and expansion of alternative meat. Although there’s a long way to go, with the stakes so high it’s vital that animal advocates take action now to reduce meat consumption across the globe.