Insights on packaging and labeling for plant-based meat and dairy in India 

Overview

The alternative protein category in India is new and niche. Among the early adopters, close to 30% of the consumers are familiar with plant-based meat, and nearly 50% with plant-based dairy. However, among the consumers who have heard of the category, only 5% of respondents are moderately or extremely familiar with plant-based meat and 12% with plant-based dairy. In such a scenario, where the category is not deeply entrenched in the minds and lives of consumers, the manufacturers need to design packaging and labeling that explicitly indicates the category and its benefits in compliance with the FSSAI’s regulations. All elements of the packaging, including the shape, color, text, symbols, and images, have to be designed to grab the consumer’s attention and provide them with accurate information in an easily understandable way. Besides compliance with regulatory policies, the product’s labeling and terminology must be relevant and credible to accurately communicate its sensory profile, key ingredient(s), and plant-based nature.

Key insights from the report

  • Though the early adopters in India are somewhat familiar with the category, there is a clear gap in comprehension of the category and various terms and nomenclature used by the manufacturers. This gap is more pronounced for plant-based dairy where the conventional terminology is restricted. Consumers are often confused about the category and the use of the product in the absence of descriptors like milk, cheese, butter, etc., on the packaging. 
  • Terminology like plant-based and vegan mentioned prominently on the front of the packaging helps consumers understand the product and differentiate it from conventional meat and dairy. Consumers also used vegetarian/non-vegetarian logos to differentiate products from conventional animal-derived packaging. 
  • For plant-based dairy, where conventional terminology is restricted, alternative terms can be derived based on the ingredients used and/or the perceived utility of the product. For example, descriptors like almond beverage, plant-based protein drink, and plant-based mozzarella/cheddar can be used.
  • Mentioning the protein (chicken or mutton) helped consumers accurately identify and visualize the sensory experience such as look and feel, aroma, taste, texture, and aftertaste of the product. Packs that didn’t have the specific protein mentioned left some consumers confused about what sensorial attributes to expect from the product. 
  • Apart from the nomenclature, manufacturers can also use visual cues like the shape of the packaging, color, and images to convey category-relevant messaging to consumers. 
    • Keeping the shape of the plant-based packaging similar to popular packaging recognized for animal-derived products helps with an intuitive connection to the category. For example, consumers associate tubs with ice creams, block-shaped packaging with cheese/butter, and cartons with milk.
    • Green-colored packaging or green-colored text also cued plant-based to many consumers.
    • Images of the product on the packaging help identify the category and understand the look and feel of the product. For example, an image of a block of cheese or a bottle of milk helped consumers identify the contents, especially in cases where conventional dairy terminology was absent on the packaging.
    • Taste and texture are two must-haves for the consumer to appreciate plant-based meat/cheese, etc. Consumers build taste and texture using multiple cues like visuals, ingredients mentioned, and descriptions on the packaging. Hence it’s advised to add images that are visually appealing along with indulgent descriptions of the product. 
  • Health-related claims were particularly important for consumers of plant-based milk alternatives, while taste claims resonated more with those interested in plant-based meat alternatives. High protein is also an important claim associated with plant-based categories. Since the target audience is a dual user of both plant-based and animal-derived products, it is not advised to use claims that criticize traditional animal-derived products.

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