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I consider myself a global citizen. Born in the Netherlands, I’ve lived and worked across Asia, Europe, America, Brazil and South Africa. Having had the opportunity to see so much of this beautiful world, I’m always looking for opportunities to create sustainable change in the fight against the climate crisis. One of the biggest opportunities I see is in the transformation of our food system.

According to UBS analysts, by 2030, the global plant-based meat market could be worth $85 billion. In the west, much of the media focus is on the growth of high-profile plant-based food brands and general shifts in consumer appetite, but the change in consumer attitudes is global.

Rapid growth is also happening in the east, where people have been consuming plant-based foods for hundreds of years.

In the East, people have been consuming plant-based foods for hundreds of years.

In China, for example, tofu and vegetarian meats, often made from soy, have traditionally been dietary staples. For hundreds of years, not eating meat was the norm for Chinese people. The lifestyle flowed in and out of favor with the change of the dynasties.

Global Meat Consumption

As Chinese citizens have become richer, meat has become more of a staple. In the 1960s, the average person living in China consumed less than 5kg of meat a year. Some reports state the average person now consumes around 17.5kg of meat per year. Others estimate this figure is higher, at 60kg of meat per year.

In comparison with western countries, this is still relatively small. Especially when you consider that in 2018, the U.S. set a new record for itself on meat consumption, with the average consumer eating around 222.2 pounds (around 100 kilograms) of red meat and poultry products throughout the year.

According to the BBC, throughout western European countries, 80 to 90 kilograms of meat is consumed per person annually. Meat is deeply ingrained in every aspect of western food culture, it’s on every fast food menu, supermarket shelf, and most dinner tables.

Learning From the Mistakes of the West

This obsession with meat is detrimental to the environment. Currently, animal agriculture accounts for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The industry is also responsible for other environmental issues, including deforestation.

Seventy percent of soy is grown to feed livestock. The crop—80 percent of which is grown in the U.S., Brazil, and Argentina—is linked with widespread rainforest destruction.

As meat popularity grows in the east and continues to soar in the west, these environmental problems will only get worse. So far this year, China has produced 34 million metric tons of pork. In 2019, the country bred more than 310 million pigs for consumption. But with rising availability and accessibility of plant-based products, the country has an opportunity to change course. It can learn from the mistakes of western nations. 

Flexitarian diets are rising in popularity as environmental and health concerns around meat grow.

A shift is already happening. Hong Kong-based vegan meat brand RightTreat has its OmniPork on Aldi shelves, Beyond Meat is now available in Alibaba supermarkets, and the Chinese franchises of Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut recently partnered with the California-based vegan meat brand.

A recent survey found that one quarter of people living in Hong Kong identify as flexitarian. The lifestyle, where people reduce the amount of meat they consume, is rising in popularity as environmental and health concerns around meat grow.

Plant-Based Growth in India

China is not the only country in the east with significant potential for growth in the plant-based sector. In India, where vegetarian food has also historically been the norm due to Hinduism, the meat industry is also growing.

The country is gaining private wealth at a fast pace (having grown 98 percent between 2008 and 2018), and with this, meat consumption is on the rise. According to one 2014 study, 71 percent of Indians over the age of 15 do not identify as vegetarian. But it is because of this new appetite for meat that some experts believe there is significant opportunity for alternative protein development within India. The Good Food Institute (GFI) has partnered with AAK Kamani, India’s leading supplier of oils and fats, to advance projects in the plant-based meat space. 

If people in the country are open to animal-based meat, they will likely be eager to eat products that taste like it, but are more in line with the ethical teachings of Hinduism, a religion that around 80 percent of people in India practice.

According to GFI India’s managing director Varun Deshpande, most Indians are flexitarian or “guilty non-vegetarians” by default. He recently told LIVEKINDLY:

“The plant-based foods market in India is just getting started. With few incumbents but multiple launches in plant-based meat, egg, and dairy expected over the next few months and years.”

The LIVEKINDLY Collective Looks to the East

The LIVEKINDLY Collective is out to provide as many realistic, healthy, and exciting plant-based alternatives as possible, to as many people as possible. We’ve already partnered with like-minded brands, like Oumph!, LikeMeat and The Fry Family Food Co., to create our very own plant-based ecosystem. We’re the only company in the industry to own and operate the whole value chain of production.

We’ll be looking to the east for expansion in the near future. We believe in business as a global force for good, and we’re only just getting started.