Novolutions, the food tech startup behind premium handcrafted mocktail brand ‘Hippie’ has expanded its focus to plant-based protein with its new brand ‘Just Dig In!’ which offers a variety of plant-based meat snacks. Their plant-based Chick*n Oriental Meatballs, Chick*n Seekh Kebabs, Chick*n Spicy Fingers, and Chick*n Chili Cheese Nuggets are now available all around the national capital, serving 46 pin codes across Delhi NCR.
As an omni-channel D2C brand, Just Dig In! products are available across Modern Bazaar outlets in Delhi, on Modern Bazaar’s online portal, and the Just Dig In! website. Partnering with a leading modern trade retail chain like Modern Bazaar – which has a presence in all the right catchment sections that Just Dig In! aims to target – offers the brand perfect access to the ‘early adopters’ of plant-based meat. These customers, eager to try and experiment with plant-based products, are quickly becoming aware of the implications that industrial animal agriculture has on personal and planetary health.
Globally, the ‘smart protein’ industry, of which plant-based protein is a core pillar, saw USD 5 million invested in 2021 and the number of smart protein brands around the globe is growing rapidly too. In India there are now about 50 smart protein companies active, and with brands like Just Dig In! joining these ranks, offering unique food products with ‘Indian Chinese’ twists and other innovative touches, the market is poised for rapid growth and evolution. While people might question the relevance of plant-based foods in a country like India, GFI research found that 63% of Indian consumers are very or extremely likely to purchase plant-based meat in a cross-country survey of consumer acceptance study. This response from consumers – most of whom are ‘early adopters’ or young, upwardly mobile individuals from metros with a monthly income above Rs 50 – compared favorably with the US and China, making India an extremely viable market for smart protein startups like Novolutions to enter.
Just Dig In! has plans to expand beyond Delhi NCR to other metros as well, and is in talks with other leading gourmet category stores so that their products are available across multiple outlets. Additionally, the company is working closely with food service players to expand to HORECA segments.
When talking about their products, Just Dig In! founder Somesh Behera says, “Our core team is composed of people who have rich experience in channel sales, the food service industry (HORECA), and offshore export markets. Having worked in the dairy, meat, and frozen foods industries in the past, holding key strategic positions for both domestic and international food brands, we spotted gaps in the market. We wanted to develop products that can serve as parallels to animal-derived foods, while being a whole lot more sustainable.”
Behera adds, “We are non-vegetarians ourselves, and so we understand what consumers want from smart protein products. Our target market is Indians who are ‘guilty’ non-vegetarians concerned about cutting down their meat consumption. This was the tipping point for starting up in the smart protein space. We want to be the right alternative – in terms of taste, texture, and functionality, and be the brand that helps people transition from one extreme to another when it comes to food choices. We feel today’s niche is tomorrow’s mass!”
Speaking about the potential of the plant-based sector, GFI India’s Senior Innovation Specialist Nicole Rocque says, “Brands like Just Dig In! are growing the Indian consumer’s understanding of plant-based food as a category. They’re doing this by launching unique products, catering to regional and traditional cuisines native to India and by providing consumers with a range of options – in the form of their favorite snacks! With this, they’re offering consumers a simple switch rather than a sacrifice when it comes to easy indulgence.”
When asked about the market for plant-based meats, Rocque adds, “We’re seeing a huge uptick in market activity in smart protein. As per GFI India’s analysis, there are over 200 plant-based products in 29 formats from 40 different brands across meat, eggs, and dairy, available in retail, eCommerce, and food service channels. We have full faith that with brands like Just Dig In! launching, it will become easier every day for Indians to access high-protein foods that provide all the sensory and social elements that animal-derived meats offer, without breaking the planet!”