Growing Green: Veganism & the Global Shift towards Plant-Based Proteins – Life News

By Vineet Singhal

As we approach World Vegan Day on November 1st, the world finds itself at a pivotal moment in the realm of dietary choices. Veganism, once considered a fringe lifestyle, has rapidly surged into the mainstream, and plant-based proteins are at the forefront of this dietary transformation.

The Global Rise of Veganism

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In recent years, veganism has experienced a remarkable ascent. The Economist dubbed 2019 as “The Year of the Vegan,” signifying the growing influence of this dietary choice. The COVID-19 pandemic, which prompted lifestyle changes and raised concerns about the environmental impact of animal farming, has further accelerated this trend. The United Kingdom witnessed a 40% increase in vegans in 2020, totaling over 1.5 million people. The Veganuary campaign, in which individuals pledge to go vegan for the month of January, attracted over 500,000 participants in the same year.

World Vegan Day, celebrated on November 1st, marks the founding of the UK Vegan Society (in 1944) and kicks off World Vegan Month. It has gained significant recognition through social media, where advocates of plant-based living share ethical and health-related reasons to embrace veganism. In the United States, the number of consumers identifying as vegan grew from 1% to 6% between 2014 and 2017, a 600% increase, and sales of plant-based alternatives to animal-based foods have surged, amounting to over $3.7 billion.

India, too, has witnessed a growing vegan food market, largely attributed to its diverse population and cultural practices. As of 2020, India had approximately 500 million vegetarians and 5 million strict vegans. The trend towards veganism in India is expected to exhibit a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 11.32% during 2022-2027.

Environmental Impact of Veganism

One of the primary driving factors behind the rise of veganism is its positive impact on the environment. A study analyzing the diets of 55,000 people in the UK found that vegan diets result in 75% less climate-heating emissions, water pollution, and land use compared to diets with significant meat consumption. The study also revealed a 66% reduction in the destruction of wildlife and a 54% decrease in water use among vegans. Moreover, as separate research encompassing more than 38,000 economically sustainable farms across 119 nations demonstrates; generating 100 grams of protein from beef, on average, releases 25 kilograms of CO2 equivalent, whereas plant-based sources, e.g., peas, owing to the symbiotic bacteria within their legume roots, emit a mere 0.36 kilograms for the same amount of protein.

Meat and dairy production have a significant global environmental impact, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, water scarcity, and deforestation. The food industry alone emits a third of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, uses 70% of the world’s freshwater, and causes 80% of river and lake pollution. Veganism, by reducing meat and dairy consumption, can play a pivotal role in addressing these pressing environmental issues.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has highlighted that animal agriculture is the largest global source of methane emissions, a greenhouse gas over 25 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide.

Health Benefits of a Vegan Diet

In addition to its environmental advantages, a vegan diet offers several health benefits. Studies have shown that vegans tend to consume more fiber, antioxidants, potassium, magnesium, folate, and vitamins A, C, and E. These nutrients are associated with various health advantages, including lower risk for chronic diseases.

Research has revealed that vegans tend to have lower blood sugar levels and a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 78%. Consuming plant-based foods can also mitigate the risk factors associated with diabetes, such as obesity.

In terms of macronutrients, generally, vegan diets contain lower protein per gram of food intake compared to meat. However, this deficiency can be addressed by protein fortification strategies using plant-based proteins in various food & beverage applications.

The Growing Plant-Based Protein Market in India

India stands out as a prominent player in the global shift toward plant-based living. With the highest number of vegetarians in the Asia-Pacific region, India’s demand for plant-based proteins is steadily increasing. In 2021, a significant portion of the Indian population expressed a desire to improve their overall health and immunity by incorporating dietary changes.

The food and beverage segment dominates the plant-based protein market in India. Approximately 24% of the Indian population was strictly vegetarian, 9% was vegan, and 8% identified as pescatarians as of 2022. The rising demand for meat and dairy alternatives, driven by growing health consciousness and rising income levels and therefore higher affordability for proteins, has fueled the growth of this sector.

In upper middle and high-income countries, an average person consumes more than 100 grams of protein per day. In India, an average person consumes only 64.3 grams of protein per day. As the economy grows, income levels will rise, which in turn will increase health consciousness as well as protein affordability and will lead to significant growth in protein demand. As per one estimate, India will need additional 2 million tons of protein per annum once India attains upper middle-income levels.

The Future of Plant-Based Proteins

The plant-based food industry is expected to represent a significant share of the global protein market by 2030, valued at $162 billion.

With over 113 start-ups actively participating in the plant-based food sector, India presents immense opportunities for growth. The growth in plant-based foods can empower farmers while addressing challenges such as protein deficiency, climate change, hunger, and public health issues.

The market segmentation for plant-based foods in India is diverse and includes plant-based meat alternatives, plant-based dairy products, plant-based eggs, plant-based beverages, plant-based protein sports supplements and snacks.

Challenges in Plant-Based Protein Formulation

Despite the promising prospects for plant-based proteins, formulating successful products can be challenging. Plant proteins have unique characteristics, which can vary significantly based on the source and processing methods. Factors such as consistency, purity, and taste need to be carefully managed. Supply chains for plant-based ingredients are still evolving, which can impact the reproducibility of finished products.

Safety considerations, such as spore-free production, are vital when working with plant-based ingredients. These ingredients are sensitive to processing conditions, including moisture content, pH, temperature, and relative humidity. Achieving the right taste and mouthfeel is crucial for consumer acceptance.

The plant-based protein industry holds great promise, but success requires a deep understanding of the complexities involved in formulating these products. Companies must navigate the challenges associated with plant-based ingredients, ensuring quality, safety, and consistency.


As we celebrate World Vegan Day and observe the growing prominence of veganism and plant-based proteins, it is evident that the choices we make today can have a profound impact on our health, the environment, and the well-being of future generations. The rise of veganism is not merely a dietary trend; it is a conscious decision to prioritize ethics and sustainability over convenience. With a plethora of benefits and an expanding market, plant-based living is here to stay, offering a path towards a healthier, more sustainable world. The choices we make, not only on our plates but also in our lifestyles, can indeed change the world. We must pave the way for a world where “Healthy Lives on a Healthier Planet” is not just a call to action but a beautiful reality.

(The author is a Managing Director and CEO, RelSus. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the


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