Licious launches D2C plant-based meat brand, eyes pole position within a year
Licious, the meat startup valued at $1.47 billion, said it has entered the alternative protein sector with the launch of a direct-to-consumer (D2C) plant-based meat brand.
The launch of the brand called ‘UnCrave’ aligns with the company’s strategy of portfolio diversification. Licious said it aims to emerge as a market leader within the first year of launch itself and create relevance for the larger set of meat-eating consumers.
Developed from plant-based proteins the offering currently consists of vegetarian chicken and mutton seekh kebabs. Licious said these are rich in protein and free of all artificial preservatives and trans fat. In the initial phase, the UnCrave range will be available in all major metro cities in India.
“India is a religiously and culturally diverse country and every ethnicity has periods in which they abstain from eating meat for various reasons. Our products are targeted towards (consumers) who abstain from eating meat on certain days of the week or month,” said Abhay Hanjura, co-founder of Licious, in an interview. “We have invested in over 20 months of R&D, in-house, to develop a range of products that closely resembles the taste and texture of meat in a never-before-experienced way,” he added.
In the past seven years, Licious has developed a nuanced knowledge of meats and customers who consume meat. These deep insights helped the brand to realise that there is a large section of people who crave meat on the occasions that they can’t have it. This is what led to the creation of UnCrave. The cook time for these products is 8 mins and they have a shelf life of 12-14 days.
“Licious is the only Indian company to house both animal and alternative protein under one roof,” said Simeran Bhasin, Business Head, Alternative Protein- Licious. Bhasin said UnCrave products can address everyday protein needs – an extremely pertinent need in a protein-deficient country like India. “A superior, meat-like taste is our biggest unique selling point,” said Bhasin.
The Indian plant-based meat or mock meat market is still in its nascent stage, but it is witnessing strong growth. According to a September 2021 study by retail broking company Nirmal Bang, the plant-based meat market in India is estimated at $30-40 million, largely driven by a consumer (packaged) food category. The report said the market size in India is likely to touch $500 million in three years.
The global plant-based meat market size is projected to reach $24.8 billion by 2030, according to a report by Grand View Research, Inc. The market is expected to expand at a CAGR of 19.3 per cent from 2022 to 2030. It said the growing adoption of vegan lifestyle and diet among health-conscious consumers in traditionally meat-eating developed economies are expected to drive the market over the forecast period. The largest in this segment globally are start-ups such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods Inc. Early this year, fast food restaurant chain KFC partnered with Beyond Meat, a Los Angeles-based producer of plant-based meat substitutes.
In India, this industry is gaining more traction with a diverse set of start-ups entering the market with their vast product portfolios. Some of the brands include Imagine Meats, Good Dot, Blue Tribe, Veggie Champ, and Urban Champ. This year Blue Tribe raised an undisclosed sum from wife-husband duo Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma and cricketer Virat Kohli. Imagine Meats is a venture co-founded by actors Riteish Deshmukh and Genelia Deshmukh.
Legacy brands such as ITC and Tata are also joining the bandwagon. Early this year, diversified conglomerate ITC Ltd forayed into the plant-based meat market. The company had said that it is launching plant-based burger patties and nuggets providing the taste of chicken to consumers.
Licious’s UnCrave would be competing with all these players as it aims to become the largest plant-based meat brand in India in the next 2 years. In March this year, the firm raised $150 million in a Series F2 funding round led by Singapore-based Amansa Capital, along with Kotak PE & Axis Growth Avenues AIF – I. This round of fundraise came just 6 months after the company became the first direct-to-consumer (D2C) unicorn or a startup with over $1 billion valuation in the country. In just 6 years Licious has witnessed a 300 per cent growth and has served over three million packs of meat products to consumers across 28 Indian cities. Licious said it serves over 2 million orders every month with over 90 per cent repeat consumption across markets.