PBFIA moves railways for plant-based foods cold storage at Bengaluru station

(L to R) - Sanjay Sethi, ED, PBFIA; Ravali Amba, Demolish Foods; and Siddharth Ramasubramanian, Hello Tempayy during panel discussion on plant-based foods at the Businessworld Unicorn Conference
(L to R) - Sanjay Sethi, ED, PBFIA; Ravali Amba, Demolish Foods; and Siddharth Ramasubramanian, Hello Tempayy during panel discussion on plant-based foods at the Businessworld Unicorn ConferencePhoto - PBFIA

The Indian Railways has expressed its “definite interest” to cater to the need of a cold storage facility in Bengaluru Railway Station for plant-based foods and help the industry reach $5 billion in ten years’ target at a meeting with Plant Based Foods Industry Association (PBFIA) Executive Director Sanjay Sethi, held here recently.

The PBFIA delegation that included executive director Sanjay Sethi, approached Shyam Singh, Divisional Railway Manager, South Western Railway, and Kusuma Hariprasad, Additional Divisional Manager, to help make Bengaluru the epicenter for plant-based foods. At the end of the meeting, Shyam Singh, DRM expressed his satisfaction that a transit cold storage facility for plant based foods was a just demand.

This consultation was an effort to lessen the logistical issue to concretize the need which was of pressing concern in a meeting PBFIA delegation meeting with Prahlad Singh Patel, Minister of State for Food Processing Industries and Jal Shakti in New Delhi on 15th March.

DRM Shyam Singh expressed definite interest and asked PBFIA to share a comprehensive concept for the cold storage facility. A training program for the railway food handlers was also proposed by PBFIA, which was highly appreciated.

Sethi, after the meeting, said, "Plant-Based Foods is a stage before sunrise that is witnessing significant growth represented by many young entrepreneurs. The training of food handlers is a necessity to help them understand the criticality of the cold chain and prepare them to address various risks.”

Sethi further said, "For this industry to thrive, a level playing field and economies of scale are required. With the advent of significant Indian corporations, such as Tata Consumer Products, which launched a new brand under the name Tata Simply Better and offers plant-based chicken patties, spicy fingers, nuggets, and kebabs, the sector is now expanding in that direction."

Currently, fresh fruits, vegetables, and some meat products are stored in the cold chain facilities. Having a designated area for plant-based foods can help businesses not only ship their products, such as dairy-free ice cream, meat substitutes made from plants, and other products across the country but also maintain the proper temperature for their packaged frozen products, which is typically -18 degrees Celsius. It will be a critical step that will reduce the costs associated with logistics and bring about price parity at Bengaluru, being a center for innovation.

Last week, companies like Shaka Harry and Letz Vez gave the city a huge boost. In a funding round managed by Better Bite Ventures, Blue Horizon, and venture debt fund Panthera Peak, Shaka Harry got a $2 million total investment.

On the other hand, Letz Vez opened a Quick Serving Restaurant (QSR) at Ashoka Vattika, Jayanagar as a part of PBFIA’s Focus Bengaluru campaign, to enhance customer interaction with plant-based foods. According to Vishal Baid, co-founder chief executive officer, this new vertical is a huge step toward making plant-based foods accessible to the end users.

At the first PBFIA meeting held in Bengaluru with Siddharth – Hello Tempayy, Roohi – The Field Grill, Sonal – White Cub, Ankush - Oatey, Jinesh Shah – Ahimsa VC, Pranav Rajkumar – Ahimsa VC, Ashutosh – Letz Vez, Medha - PBFIA, Kaushal – FarmVeda, Jitendra – Tata Coffee, Satish – Flybird Innovation it was visualized that the startups that make up the industry are intensely motivated to transform the landscape and disrupt with the unthinkable concepts, therefore it is possible that the plant-based foods industry will reach $5 billion in ten years.

At the panel discussion between Sanjay Sethi, Siddharth Ramasubramanian, the founder and chief executive officer of Hello Tempayy, and Ravali Amba, chief executive officer of Demolish Foods on plant-based foods at the Businessworld Unicorn Conference on 22 July, at the Hotel Lalit Ashok in Bengaluru, it was decided that industry should offer enough protein options that are delicious, inexpensive, nutritious, and easy to prepare because food is all about choices.

India is very uniquely placed with a pool house of talent. In the plant-based foods space, mimicking meat is a challenge and to come with a texture that comes from animal muscle fiber requires in-depth understanding. The support of biotechnologists, mechanical engineers and chemical engineers has made it possible to create such muscle fibers, which are as thin as hair and give a whole new dimension to plant-based meats and fish suitable for a customer all across the world.

To better understand the sector and the current developments in the plant-based food industry, the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore also asked Sanjay Sethi to address the faculty and students on the issue.

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