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Coffee major CCL to market meatless meat, chews on long-term FMCG vision

The business of making a plant taste like a chicken nugget may appeal to those advocating healthy eating with no cruelty to animals but it may not be everyone’s cup of tea or coffee in this case. Hyderabad-based coffee major CCL Products on Thursday, July 7th launched its plant-based brand ‘Continental Greenbird.’ It is still testing waters and is to begin with markets in Hyderabad, Pune and Chandigarh. The company is also playing it safe and has signed up with third party specialist makers of the products which would then be branded and marketed by CCL.

This is despite the rather less appreciated linkages between coffee-making and manufacturing plant-based protein products. Srishant Challa, MD, CCL Products India in fact tells Financial Express Online that leading coffee equipment makers globally like GEA from Denmark and Bühler, a Swiss multinational are also into plant-based meat. However, CCL does not intend to go down that path, at least just yet and would rather rely on the third party makers. “We will be investing around Rs 10 crore in the next three years on this and see how it takes off,” says Srishant Challa, a lawyer by training but one who has been mentored by his father Challa Rajendra Prasad, who promoted the company back in 1995.

“Greenbird,” which Srishant Challa says, can be bought online at the moment and is to be soon available in retail (super markets) stores in the three markets is priced in packets that cost anywhere between Rs 295 to Rs 350. A note from the company explain that these come in “four plant-based meat varieties: Chicken-like nuggets, Chicken-like seekh kebab, Chicken-like sausage, and Mutton-like keema. All their products are made from plant-based protein which are derived from Green pea, Chickpea, and in the case of Keema from soya.”

The move to market and brand plant-based meat is part of a larger vision at CCL of turning the company in the long-run into an FMCG company, says Srishant Challa. This, he says, despite the fact that the company sees huge growth potential in its core business of coffee-making and a space where the Rs 1460 crore company would want to retain its hold and build on it. As for FMCG, Srishant Challa says the company is still at an R&D stage and looking at different segments like snack foods, health foods and others but it is still early days.

The apparent reason to make a foray into plant-based protein products was also driven by a realisation that globally there is an increase in awareness among consumers about sustainability, environmental impact, industrial meat packing and flexitarian diets. “In the past few years, the popularity of plant-based meat has been gaining momentum globally as well as in India. The pandemic has propelled the growth further. Today, individuals are conscious of their food consumption, thereby making the concept of plant-based lifestyle a new healthy trend to adopt,” says the note from the company. It also says that “as per industry research, India’s meat substitute market is estimated to be around Rs 300 crore and is largely driven by consumer package food. Market Size is estimated to touch around 3500 crores in 3 years.”

The note also quotes Praveen Jaipuriar – Chief Executive Officer, Continental Coffee as saying, “India has the potential to emerge as one of the largest markets for plant-based protein alternatives. This has inspired us to enter this category and make plant-based meat part of everyone’s daily lifestyle.”

CCL Products India is today a major player in coffee offering more than 1000 coffee blends, manufactured across four facilities (spread across India, Vietnam and Switzerland) to customers across 90 countries. 

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