The rise of plant-based foods

India is witnessing an alternative food revolution. Made of a variety of raw materials ranging from soybean to jackfruit, these new plant-based foods are as nutritious as they are versatile and sustainable.

Vegetarianism, although not as widely followed as it’s made out in India, is a movement that has been gathering momentum for some time now. The benefits of a plant-based diet, as much for humans, as it is for the planet, are undeniable. However, despite being a major part of the Indian plate, even fresh produce has its limitations; especially when it comes to millennial households where time is short.

In recent years, interesting alternatives such as tofu have reached our shores, but it is yet to catch the fancy of the mainstream Indian palate. It is this lack of options that some new entrepreneurs aim to address with their products.

“Even meat eaters don’t actually eat meat for every meal. Plant-based foods form the core of nearly every other meal, if not more,” says Siddharth Ramasubramanian, CEO and founder of Vegolution. “If you don’t eat meat and aren’t happy with your choice of veggies, what are the other options that exist? This is where Vegolution’s Hello Tempayy steps in,” he adds.

Consumers these days are also more aware of what they’re eating, a fact that players in the space understand and want to cater to. Says Sairaj Dhond, CEO and founder of Wakao Foods, “We wanted to curate a conscious option without compromising on the customer’s or the planet’s health. One of our primary aims was to bring in Wakao Jack Meat for the vegan meat segment, so that sustainable foods are as easily available as vegetarian, meat and seafood options.”

Vegolution’s offering is soy bean-based while Wakao Foods’ is jackfruit-based. With a ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook product range, these 100 per cent vegetarian options are fortified with vitamin B12 and iron in the case of Vegolution while Wakao uses a process called retorting which gives its products a one-year shelf life and allows it to be stored at room temperature. Nutritional benefits aside, it was very clear that product adoption would be majorly driven by versatility and diversity of application. Both range of products have been designed for seamless integration into a variety of cuisines and cooking styles.

“We conducted extensive tests with a number of households. It showed us the different applications possible and even allowed us to come up with new combinations, whether in Indian cooking or other cuisines. Versatility is one of the biggest advantages of tempe,” says Ramasubramanian.

It was the same approach for Wakao Foods. “We wanted to dispel the notion that vegan food or healthy food does not taste good,” says Dhond.

Naturally, sustainability is a key focus area for these businesses, evident also from their raw ingredient sourcing models. Suppliers comprise local producers who follow international benchmarks to ensure quality consistency and, ‘made in India’ comes with its own host of benefits.

Products from both these companies are available online, with Vegolution’s Hello Tempayy shipping only across Bengaluru for now while Wakao Foods retails in Goa and can be shipped across the country.

If you’ve been debating the pros and cons of a plant-based diet, now is a great time to explore these newly available options. In addition to the nutritional advantages, benefits to local communities, economies and the environment, are difficult to ignore.

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