Bollywood couple Genelia and Riteish Deshmukh have launched their latest business venture, Imagine Meats, focused on plant-based meat products.
The company will launch a variety of products, tailor-made for the Indian palate. The company has partnered with global ingredients manufacturer Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and Nutrition India, allowing it to access expertise in food science, flavours, and product development across Singapore, Berlin, and the United States. Using this gained expertise, Imagine Meats will develop food items relevant to the Indian non-vegetarian consumer, such as biryanis, kebabs and curries.
Imagine Meats has also worked in collaboration with the India arm of the Good Food Institute (GFI), a not-for-profit organisation which promotes plant-based alternatives to meat, dairy and eggs.
Such plant-based meat products are made with the use of alternative protein, utilising plants, cells and other ingredients through the use of fermentation. Plant ingredients such as pea protein and coconut oil are also used to replicate the taste and smell of animal meat.
“We want Imagine Meats to be the choice for anybody seeking the taste of meat, without the guilt of environmental and public health impacts – just as it will be for our own family,” said Genelia Deshmukh, founder of Imagine Meats
Rumours about the spread of Covid-19 through meat products spread rapidly in India during the lockdown, even as the meat and poultry industry was braving supply chain disruptions. The result was a slump in demand. A change in attitude towards meat products among sections of the Indian society may be afoot, even though myth-busting campaigns have since explained that fears of the spread of Covid-19 through meat products are unwarranted.
Plant-based meat products are expected to yield significant returns in terms of reducing land and water costs, as well as reducing the carbon footprint of societies at large. This is because animal slaughterhouses are heavy sources of greenhouse gas emissions.
The propagation of plant-based meat, if successful in incorporating the unique taste and texture of meat products, could see Indians consciously make a lifestyle change and adopt vegetarianism, while moving towards plant-based meat products to satiate their cravings for non-vegetarian food.
Varun Deshpande, managing director at the Good Food Institute India, said, “With our agricultural biodiversity and the opportunity to benefit our farmers and talented workforce, India can be a lynchpin of growth for the global sector. Covid-19 has underscored that we can no longer take our planet for granted.”
Meanwhile, Riteish and Genelia Deshmukh are not the first, but just the most recent Bollywood celebrities who have founded, or invested in startups. Actress Deepika Padukone has invested in several brands in the past, one of them being FMCG health-food brand Epigamia. Priyanka Chopra is one who’s invested in technology, with investments in alternative college education startup Holberton School and dating app Bumble, while Ayushmann Khurrana turned investor last year, with funding of an undisclosed amount in Gurugram-based male grooming startup The Man Company (TMC). There are also other celebrities such as Aishwarya Rai Bacchan, Arjun Kapoor, and Akshay Kumar who’ve donned the investor hat.