Alternative meat products have made headlines recently as they hit supermarkets and even fast-food chains. In India, one startup wants to make a difference in the space by producing plant-based liquid eggs.
“We saw a gap in the market for clean protein products, specifically plant-based alternatives to animal products, and decided to start Evo Foods to address this,” Shraddha Bhansali, chief operating officer at Evo Foods, tells Tech in Asia.
Photo credit: Petr Št?pánek / 123RF
Eyeing 50 million to 60 million people in tier-one cities in India, the Mumbai-based Evo Foods started operations last year. It says it uses deep food science to extract proteins from legumes and other plant sources to create a clean protein alternative for India’s traditional egg market.
The startup claims it has created the country’s first 100% plant-based liquid egg without cholesterol, antibiotics, and animal cruelty. It also effectively mimics the taste, texture, and protein content of a traditional egg.
According to a report, the plant-based food industry was valued at US$4.2 billion globally in 2019. India, along with Indonesia, Vietnam, and Brazil, is considered as one of the lucrative markets for plant-based food products.
Another report says that India makes up around 10% of Asia Pacific’s plant-based protein market. The value of the industry in the country is expected to reach over US$565 million by 2023, driven mainly by the rising purchasing power of middle- and lower-income families, growing youngsters, and the health-conscious middle-aged population.
Covid-19 has also played a significant role in accelerating the growth of the alternative protein industry in Asia.
But with a promising nascent market, Evo Foods is facing potentially tough competition, along with some inherent industry challenges. After all, it’s not surprising why bigger players want to expand globally.
For example, the US-based Impossible Foods, which has raised a total of US$1.3 billion in funding, is now present in Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, and China.
UK-based Just is also looking to enter Asia, including India, to sell more of its plant-based eggs. It claims it has already sold 40 million plant-based eggs.
In India, local players include the plant-based milk producer Goodmylk and Plantmade, which was launched by the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi to sell vegan paneer and plant-based scrambled eggs.
Meanwhile, Evo Foods’ product is still in the pilot phase. It’s originally slated for launch in July, but the company had to postpone it to October due to the lockdown.
In one interview, the startup said it expects its plant-based eggs to replace the use of traditional eggs in baking over the next eight months. Different iterations are also in the pipeline.
Evo Foods chief operating officer Shraddha Bhansali (left) and CEO Kartik Dixit/Photo credit: Evo Foods
Customer education, or convincing customers about the benefits of consuming plant-based eggs, will also be a challenge, Bhansali says.
Pricing will be another issue especially in the early days. Evo Foods previously said it plans to price its eggs at a rate that is 60% higher than that of traditional eggs. But the company believes costs will go down in around two years as it scales up production.
“We want to be a clean protein company, so we have our eye on the alternative protein industry and [on becoming] the go-to-brand for all sorts of products under it,” Evo Foods CEO Kartik Dixit says. He notes, however, that the company will focus first on plant-based egg products and customer education in at least the next three years.
Evo Foods seems to be on the right track. So far, it has raised funding from the US-based early-stage VC firm VegInvest, Wild Earth co-founder Ryan Bethencourt, Shiok Meats co-founder Sandhya Sriram, and the US-based VC firm Big Idea Ventures.
Big Idea Ventures invests in companies working on plant-based foods, food technology, and alternative proteins via its US$50 million New Protein Fund.
Evo Foods is part of the second batch of the VC firm’s foodtech accelerator program in New York City. Bhansali says the move will help their startup expand to the US by the end of next year, as well as across India, Southeast Asia, and Australia in the future.
Bhansali and Dixit, along with a chief food scientist, form Evo Foods’ core team. Bhansali is a vegan who operates a vegetarian restaurant and bar in Mumbai. Dixit, who has also been an environmental vegan for three years now, previously worked in an online grocery delivery platform and a cultivated meat company before building Evo Foods.