Is India ready for lab-grown meat? (part 1)
With two government-backed research facilities, a young and well-developed startup company, and a population of 1.35 billion, will India become the next frontier in cell-based meat after the US?
Will India become the next frontier in lab-grown meat?
In 2016, India’s domestic poultry consumption was ranked as the fifth-largest in the world. With its growing population, rising disposable incomes, and changing food habits, the country needs more protein products to keep pace. The authorities in India seem to have the political will to encourage cell-based protein.
Two facilities with the back of the Indian government will soon pursue research into cell-based meat. The Centre of Excellence in Cellular Agriculture, which plans to start its first phase of operations in 2020 in Maharashtra, is a partnership between the government-funded Institute of Chemical Technology Mumbai and The Good Food Institute India. The second facility, to be based in Hyderabad, will benefit from a US$640,000 grant from the Indian government’s Department of Biotechnology.
With the world’s second-largest population as potential customers, government investment in research facilities, and good access to biopharmaceutical and mechanical engineering expertise, will India become the next frontier in cell-based meat after the US?
Chicken meat will be the first lab-grown meat in India
Meat consumption is profoundly affected by religious beliefs and culture. This is particularly true in India, home to at least nine recognized religions. For those religions that do allow meat diets, chicken meat is one of the few animal proteins that are not subject to restrictions. In India, it is considered the most popular protein.
Siddharth Manvati is the co-founder and the scientific brain behind ClearMeat, the only Indian startup in the field of cultured meat. In an interview with Supertrends, Manvati was very excited about his company’s achievements with lab-grown chicken. “Apart from our investors, you are the first person to know that we have achieved industrial proof of concept, which means we have successfully tested our cell-based chicken technology in our lab and small industrial-scale. We will now focus on obtaining a viable market product.” Manvati outlined some other future steps that ClearMeat is planning: a successful tasting event, making the concept of lab-grown chicken acceptable to customers, and working with the authorities on regulations. All these parameters have to be in place before the cultivated chicken is ready to hit the retail shelves.
Win over Indian consumers
Indian consumers tend to be price-sensitive, and but also highly quality-conscious. Manvati believes that price is a decisive factor in winning over Indian consumers. Once the price is right, consumers will take into consideration the taste and texture.
One concern that Manvati does have is that there are too few Asian companies in the cultured meat industry. Based on population growth and changes in the eating habits of Asians, Manvati believes the Asian market will consume up to 80 percent of all animal protein produced. This means there is an imbalance between demand and supply.
Although Manvati did not want to give a specific date for a tasting event for ClearMeat, he did tell Supertrends when he expects cultivated chicken to be available in the Indian market. We look forward to hearing the news of a traditional Indian dish – chicken Keema made with lab-grown chicken.
Continue reading about our outlook on the cultured meat industry in India in part 2 of this story.