‘Unmeat’ your diet, says plant-based meat startup GoodDot

Tell any meat lover you eat Unmutton Keema, Vegicken Curry, Where Bhurji without eggs and you are sure to attract some judgement, and perhaps even ridicule.

These products, named after popular non-vegetarian dishes, are part of a Udaipur-based startup GoodDotaimed at replacing meat with a plant-based alternative.

The challenge, however, was to successfully imitate the taste, which is sacred to a carnivore. Abishek Sinhaco-founder of GoodDot’s and former meat eater, agrees: “When I ate meat, it was primarily for the taste of the meat.

This is what led Abhishek to launch GoodDot with Deepak Parihar and launched GoodDot in 2016 with the assumption that a good vegan, meaty-tasting, affordable product would find plenty of takers.

“There were two sides of the equation,” he explains. “Vegetable meat, technologically, is possible. If you do your R&D (research and development) right, you can create a product that is 100% vegan but tastes like meat.

“Second, [if] the product is available at a good price, there will be many consumers, especially meat eaters looking to reduce their meat consumption,” he adds.

GoodDot’s products include Biryani, Meatless Ground Meat, Dhaba Unmutton Curry Kit, Pickled Vegetable Chunksin packs of 125-500g, price between Rs 95 and Rs 379.

GoodDot Proteiz Pepper

Solve a moral dilemma

For Abhishek, GoodDot was the next step for a cause he believed in. “I am an animal lover. I have been saving and feeding them since my childhood. [But] I also belong to a community where people eat meat.

“It was a moral dilemma and it didn’t sit well with my psyche,” he says.

A civil servant until 2016, Abhishek often discussed developments in the alternative meat market with his brother Abhinav, who was pursuing a doctorate in biochemistry and molecular biology at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU).

Soon he came across the plant-based meat segment, which uses vegetarian proteins like soybeans or lentils, quinoa, peas, coconut oil or wheat, and has a special technological configuration to give products the taste of meat.

Throughout his life, Abhishek had struggled to give up meat. Countless times he would decide not to use it anymore, only to fail.

“I would start eating meat again because of the taste. I was not able to control the urge,” he says. Eventually, his passion for saving animal lives led him to quit his job and turn to entrepreneurship.

Most of GoodDot’s customers have a similar story: meat eaters looking for an alternative that will satisfy their taste buds.

So how close does GoodDot taste to meat?

“I won’t say exactly the same, but it’s very close,” Abhishek says. Of the products sold by GoodDot, he adds, some are “extremely similar” in taste to meat while others are not so much. “Because R&D is continuous, we are constantly evolving our product line.”

GoodDot has dedicated food scientists and researchers working on it. The startup also organizes taste tests with restaurateurs, chefs and other stakeholders to improve its product line. From chicken and mutton to egg, the goal is to be able to mimic taste, texture and aroma.

This, says Abhishek, is true for all companies in the sector.

From Udaipur to the world

Initially started, GoodDot secured funding from a few wealthy individuals in 2016. It launched its products in 2017 after setting up a production facility on the outskirts of Udaipur.

On concerns about not operating from a metro, Abhishek says that Udaipur—located in the middle of the highway connecting Delhi and Mumbai—has easy access to both markets. And soybeans, a key ingredient in its products, are widely available in the Indore-Kota belt, which is not far from the city. The startup had no trouble finding good human resources in the city.

At first, GoodDot approached consumers through a direct selling company RCM Business, which has its central warehouse in Bhilwara, another city in eastern Rajasthan. “We could easily send our products to Bhilwara and they take care of the logistics from their office,” adds Abhishek.

Thanks to RCM, GoodDot had access to nearly 10 millions people and 8,000 to 10,000 physical stores. At the time, the majority of its consumers came from Tier II and III cities such as Mughalsarai and Maharajganj in Uttar Pradesh.

But a lot has changed since then.

Claiming to have grown up 100 percent every yearco-founder says GoodDot sold 3,000 units every day in 2017. Today it sells almost 50,000 units every day. Additionally, its direct-to-consumer (D2C) sales increased last year when it began marketing and promoting online, helping it win customers in the subways.

“Now that [D2C] is our focus area,” says Abhishek, adding that the D2C wave has helped the startup attract new customers aware of the impact of meat consumption.

GoodDot is also diversifying its presence and is available on DMart, Reliance and Amazon. Additionally, it exports to Singapore, Canada, Nepal, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Oman and Mauritius.

Before 2020, approximately 95 percent of its sales were made through direct sales.

Now, 55-60 percent of its revenue comes from direct selling while D2C and modern commerce, including channels like DMart, Reliance, etc., account for 12-15% each. The rest comes from exports.

According to its latest available financial statements filed with the Registrar of Companies, GoodDot reported revenue from the operations of Rs 18.6 billion during fiscal year 2020.

Biryani and Pulao from GoodDot

Funding and Prosperity

In July 2021, GoodDot raised $4.6 million from SixthSense Ventures, according to Crunchbase. The startup plans to raise another round in the next four to five months.

Akshay D’Souzahead of growth and insights at Bizom, a retail intelligence agency, says the concept of plant-based meat emerged from the United States and India is catching up.

“Right now, it’s a niche phenomenon. There is still time before it becomes mainstream and products evolve,” he adds.

Between 1961 and 2018, global meat production increased almost fivefold to reach 341 million tons, says Our World in Data. This is not surprising because it is not just a matter of taste. Meat also has nutritional value and is a good source of protein and iron.

However, it has also led to growing environmental and animal welfare concerns. Emissions from livestock, from manure and gastro-enteric waste, account for approximately 32 percent man-made methane emissions, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. Animal husbandry also needs plenty of fresh water and land to graze cattle.

A combination of these factors, along with greater consumer awareness, has led to the rise of “fake meats,” plant-based protein alternatives, and veganism.

Globally, brands like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods develop through partnerships with traditional points of sale.

In India too, the PVR cinema chain is said to be introducing a vegan menu. Earlier this month, American coffee chain Starbucks launched a vegan menu featuring Imagine Meat.

Bizom’s Akshay predicts that these partnerships will only contribute to greater adoption.

While the industry in India is still small, limited to a few hundred million dollars, it will grow as more retail chains and FMCG brands enter the space, he adds.

The signs are already there. The Indian vegetable market should reach $400-450 million in the next five years, predicts a June 2022 report from Future Market Insights and the Plant-Based Food Industry Association in India.

Additionally, GoodDot and other Indian industry brands like Wakao Foods and Blue Tribe Foods managed to get funding lately. Some of them were also able to get endorsements from celebrities like Anushka Sharma, Virat Kohli and Riteish Deshmukh.

In fact, GoodDot onboarded sportsman Neeraj Chopra as its brand ambassador last year, further boosting its D2C sales.

What awaits us?

Although the outlook looks promising, the industry faces a number of hurdles, such as awareness, pricing, storage and transportation, says Harsha RazdanPartner and Head, Consumer Markets and Internet Business, KPMG in India.

Considering the challenges in the industry, companies that can offer affordable prices and with refined taste and texture of fake meats will stand out, he adds.

Abhishek is hopeful. “We will expand our capacity, as well as our marketing and branding efforts,” he said. The startup aims to achieve an annual turnover of Rs 250-300 crore in the next two years.

He is betting on his product and its taste, its affordability, its R&D and its shelf stability. With its sister brands GoodDo, a vegan fast food chain, and GoodDot Spices, it is also expanding its avenues.

The next step, says the co-founder, is to expand and diversify into supermarkets and launch GoodDot in the US and UK markets.

The story has been updated with infographics.

Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta

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