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INTERVIEW

“We want to ensure that it is as close to animal meat as possible”
Monday, 13 September, 2021, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Blue Tribe Foods, a DTC (direct to consumer) and HoReCa based company introduced plant-based chicken nuggets and chicken keema in the market, promising to provide the authentic taste of chicken nuggets while putting all worries about plant-based food, like the taste and texture, to rest. According to husband and wife duo, Sandeep Singh and Nikki Arora Singh, founders, Blue Tribe, the company is looking to ensure consumers switch to plant-based meat in order to save the planet, combat climate change and global warming. With the help of technology, it can provide meat from sustainable plant-based sources that are natural and delicious while also being gentle on the environment and the planet. The entrepreneurs, in an email interaction with Nandita Vijay delve deeper into plant-based meats, R&D and more. Excerpts:

How has the concept of plant-based meats caught on in India?
Plant-based products are not new to India. Alternatives like coconut/almond milk have been a part of Indian cuisine and culture since ages. Plant-based meats though are at a very nascent stage here. Most plant-based meat companies from the Western markets are focussed on beef analogues and hence have not found India to be a very big market yet. However, we are seeing awareness levels about the impact of animal agriculture going up since the pandemic. This has translated to some non-vegetarians willing to adopt a more flexitarian lifestyle, and replace some meat consumption with plant-based alternatives. Of course, there is a large vegan community in India, which is already used to plant-based meat and supported our products since launch.

How are plant-based products leading to a sustainable environment? What’s the difference you make in the animal cycle and environment when you choose the right alternative to satisfy your non-veg cravings?

Humans kill 1 billion animals every week for food. Yes, you read that right. If we killed humans at that scale, the entire human population would be wiped out in 7-8 weeks. There is a large amount of resources wasted in growing these animal- feed, land, water. If everyone on the planet moved to a plant-based diet, the amount of land needed to grow food for humans on earth would be reduced to half of what is currently being used to grow animal feed.  
   
As the managing director of Alkem Laboratories, how could you set up this, and how is it positioned in your business plan?
Blue Tribe is a venture by me and my better half in our personal capacity, and is not tied in with Alkem in anyway. That said though, coming from a pharma background, we are always thinking about how to make life better for humans by providing scientifically developed products. Similarly, with Blue Tribe, we are investing in R&D to provide products which benefit not just humans, but life on our little blue planet as a whole. We founded Blue Tribe with the intention of leaving the planet a better place to live on, for future generations.   

Since its inception in 2020, how has your company fared in the country?
We have expanded to 11 cities in the space of 10 months. We're also seeing good demand coming from gourmet food stores and the HoReCa (Hotel, Restaurant, Cafe) segment. This will continue to grow in the coming months. Of course, response from consumers has been extremely supportive, especially in the large metros.

What are the products from the company? Throw some light on sausages.
We aim to offer non-vegetarians the experience from eating meat, without the animal involved. For that reason, we want to ensure that right from shopping, to cooking to eating and the nutrition is as close to animal meat as possible. For that reason, every product launch is only done after rigourous R&D to get the products exactly right. For now, we've launched plant-based chicken nuggets and keema, with sausages launching in September. By the end of the year, we aim to have a full range of plant-based products to cater to every consumption occasion for the meat lover.

Can plant-based meat be exported and what are the regulations governing this?
Yes, it can be exported as any other food product. There have been some requests coming in to us as well from Indian diaspora in other countries to check if we have started exports yet. We are currently focussed on the Indian domestic market though for now.

Tell us about the awareness drives for this.
Climate change and its effects are becoming more and more apparent. What we focus on is mainly the impact of animal agriculture on some of the factors driving climate change, like greenhouse gas emissions, tearing down of forests to make space for animal feed, land and water use. We use collaborations with chefs to introduce the concept of plant-based meat, and also show how it can be used to replace meat in one's diet.

Why did you name the company as Blue Tribe? Provide details of the manufacturing facility.
We have named it as Blue Tribe as it translates to community for the welfare of this little blue planet - we are the #planetfriendlytribe.

The brand's USP (unique selling proposition) and the difference it has made in the ecosystem. Our USP is that we taste, feel, look and cook like animal meat. Just made in a more sustainable, planet- friendly way. We do get regular feedback from consumers saying that they have been able to replace some amount of animal meat in their diet with plant-based meat. Some have also introduced it to their friends and families and who have completely accepted it as animal meat, and not known the difference.

While we have our R&D lab in Mumbai, we manufacture with a contract manufacturer in Navi Mumbai and in Chandigarh.

How sustainable eating habits in post-Covid-19 times are taking over meat products and what lies in the future?
People are becoming more and more aware of the impact that humans have on the planet, even at a very personal level. This awareness is sure to grow. In fact, it has to if we are to avoid a climate apocalypse, there is a need to focus on sustainable eating habits.

What is the scene for plant-based meats abroad?
Plant-based meats have been around in the Western markets for about 6-7 years now. Some markets like the UK have almost 65% of people who have tried out or are eating plant-based meat products in 2019. Singapore is probably at the forefront of meat alternatives - it was the first country to open the sales of cell-based meat in the world!
 
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