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Meat Substitutes: Market Trends and Patent Insights

With the global population surpassing 8 billion, raising health and environmental consciousness, and the need to meet the United Nations SDGs, there is a notable increase in investment and innovation in plant-based meat and meat analogue products. This is a first part of a two-part article aimed at compiling the global innovation landscape and market trends in the meat substitutes industry using publicly available resources and patent data.


What are Meat Substitutes?

Meat substitutes are edible products derived from plant-based sources or products developed in a lab using advanced techniques. As a viable substitute, they closely resemble conventionally produced meat. Meat substitutes go by different names like meat analogues, alternative protein, cell-based meat, cultured meat, artificial meat, and clean meat, among other names. Advancements in science and technology, and new food formulations are driving the development of meat analogues and their production methods.


Market Trends

The global plant-based meat analogue market is estimated to be approximately 8.5 billion dollars in 2023. This market is expected to grow to 67.9 billion dollars over the next decade[1]. In India, as per Indian Retailer Bureau estimates[2], the plant-based meat market is likely to reach 3,500 Crores rupees by 2026. Wakao Foods, an Indian startup, in June 2023 announced its largest-ever shipment of jackfruit-based meat products weighing 13 tons to the USA[3]. All indicators point out that the plant-based meat market is rapidly expanding, and India is gearing up to play its role in this transformative sector.


Meat Analogues Patent Insights

Meat analogues can be broadly categorized into plant-based meat and cultured meat. Globally, there are over 5,000 patent applications covering various inventions related to meat analogues composition, preparation methods, different agents/ingredients, specific characteristics, machinery, cell cultures, packaging etc.


· Global innovation landscape:


The companies investing/innovating in the meat analogues space appear to choose China, Europe, the USA, South Korea, Canada, and Australia as their primary markets for protecting their inventions, as can be inferred from Infographic-1. India features among the top 10 choices for global investors/innovators in this space to protect their inventions.


Infographic-1: Count of patent families related to meat analogues by country



· Meat Analogues Technology Innovation & Investment Trend:


The innovation trend (no. of patents filed) in meat analogues and plant-based meat space is on the rise since 2010, with a notable spike after 2019. Clearly, the investment trend and thereby the innovation trend in this space is rapidly rising, as depicted in Infographic-2. Patent data for the years 2022 and 2023 is not considered due to a lack of complete information.


Infographic-2: Annual count of patent families globally related to meat analogues for the period 2003-2021



· Companies investing in protecting their innovations globally


The patents in the meat analogues space are spread out amongst multiple players, and there are no clear monopolies in this space. Globally, big conglomerates such as Nestle, Unilever, P&G, and Marsare leading the innovation in this space. DSM-Firmenich is leading the innovation in aroma, taste, texture, and nutrition aspects of meat analogues. Refer to Infographic-3 for entities pushing the boundaries of meat analogues globally.


Infographic-3: Count of patent families of Top 13 companies globally, in the meat analogues space


· Companies investing in protecting their Innovation in India


Mirroring the global trend, in India, the patents are spread-out among different entities in the meat analogues space with no monopolies. Foreign companies are evidently taking the lead in the Indian market. Interestingly, foreign startups like Aleph Farms, Impossible Foods and Redefine Meat are also showing interest in the Indian market by filing patents in India. Refer to Infographic-4 for top entities filing for patents in the meat analogues space in India.


Infograph-4: Count of patent families of Top 10 companies filing in India, for the meat analogues patents



Conclusion

The meat substitute/analogues industry is experiencing an impressive surge in investment and innovation, driven by the rising population, health and environmental consciousness, and the United Nations SDGs. With the market projected to grow significantly in the coming years, both established conglomerates and startups are actively protecting their innovations worldwide. India, as a key market in this transformative sector, is attracting the attention of foreign companies and startups alike. However, to fully harness the potential of this growing market, there is a need for Indian businesses to innovate in this space, protect their intellectual property rights, and explore opportunities to expand globally.


Up Next >>

In part two, we delve deep into specific aspects of meat analogues that could be protected under Indian patent law and explore strategies for building a patent portfolio for companies and startups active or aspiring to venture into this space.

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