In a country that is majorly vegetarian, plant-based meat is both a novel phenomenon, as well as a natural source of protein. India is today seen as a potentially significant emerging market for plant-based meat products. In 2020, the meat substitutes market generated retail sales of $220.8 million in the country and is now expected to reach $292.9 million by 2025, clocking a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.8 percent, according to Carmen Bryan, a consumer analyst at GlobalData.
To be part of this growing bandwagon and emerge as an industry leader, in 2019 Blue Tribe was launched, which offered healthy alternatives for meat in the food supply chain of India. “We expect the plant-based meat category to grow exponentially over the next few years on the back of innovation in product and reduction in cost, due to scale. From a consumer perspective, we expect that a lot more consumers will replace a part of their non-consumption with plant-based alternatives as they become more aware of the health and climate impacts of industrial-grade meat production,” said Sohil Wazir, CCO, Blue Tribe.
Online: A Major Contributor
Starting off as a D2C brand, Blue Tribe is today available on e-commerce platforms such as BigBasket and Amazon, and Quick Commerce players – Blinkit, Dunzo, Zepto, and Swiggy Instamart.
“We will push the business in the quick commerce sector as we are noticing that these companies are growing much faster than the rest of the market. The reason for the rise is the change in people's habits and perceptions. For instance, two years back, everybody had a monthly buying basket, but now that has completely changed - if consumers are missing bread in the morning, they will order it, and by the time they are done with setting up breakfast, the bread will reach their doorstep. So that whole monthly buying exercise has completely revolutionized,” he explained.
Currently, the brand’s D2C business contributes about 18-20 percent of its overall sales, while e-commerce contributes to about 55-60 percent.
With the pandemic slowly ebbing out, the brand has ramped up its offline distribution and presence. From a D2C company, it has reached offline stores. Blue Tribe is easily available in various gourmet food stores and supermarkets such as Nature’s Basket, Foodhall, Le Marche, Modern Bazaar, Reliance, Star Bazaar, and Spencer's, among others. It is now present in over 800 stores in 26 cities across the country.
“We want to be present in about 2,000 stores by the end of March,” asserted Wazir.
He further said that quick commerce was getting big but the bulk of the meat market was still in offline distribution. Hence, the brand was also planning to launch pop-up stores at places like airports, which will be kind of an experience center.
“Additionally, we are looking to expand to Tier II cities as well this year. We haven't been able to crack it yet because of the distribution of frozen food, but we hope to get there soon,” he added.
The brand is currently offering 10 SKUs in the plant-based category, including chicken nuggets, chicken seekh kebab, chicken keema, chicken sausage, pork pepperoni, spicy pork sausage, mutton keema, chicken Darjeeling momos, chicken patty, and mutton grilled patty. All its products are in the Ready-to-Eat and Ready-to-Cook categories.
“We are trying to get innovative products, which can be used in a variety of formats and have various uses. We would be launching products such as bowls, curries, and biryanis soon,” he added.
Building a Brand
The brand does a lot of retail-led activation in which it has promoters in almost 15 percent of the stores that do the sampling. The other thing that it is doing to build the brand is through Content.
“We create content on what plant-based meat is, and make people understand the problem and also on the other side, explain to them that they can use plant-based meat the same way that they use animal meat. We do a lot of content building to bring plant-based meat into the buying cycle and not only as a novelty,” explained Wazir.
Additionally, Blue Tribe has Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma as brand ambassadors endorsing and supporting the brand. Their take on the product, brand, and category helps the company to get a wider reach. Also, the brand uses chef influencers for brand promotion, where they create videos on how people can use plant-based meat the same way as meat.
READ MORE: How Plant-Based Meat Brands are Disrupting the Indian Market
Blue Tribe is experiencing a doubling of revenue every quarter, albeit at a small base. Its key markets are the top-tier metro cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, and Bengaluru, along with cities like Dehradun and Chandigarh. Their Quarter-on-Quarter Growth is around 50 percent.
The brand is also exporting to Nepal and Singapore. Its first export to the UAE will also happen soon. “We are looking to expand to other markets as well. We realized that we have a niche in people who are looking for Indian plant-based meat products because all the plant-based meat products that are available outside India are catering to the European or the US markets. But in cases where there is a large Indian diaspora, we think we can expand there as well," concluded Wazir.