India is steadily acquiring a taste for plant-based meat substitutes, a billion-dollar industry worldwide. Globally, meat substitutes is a $20.7-billion market, according to research firm Euromonitor, which expects it to touch $23.2 billion by 2024. The pandemic is accelerating the consumption of meat-alternative products even as consumers become more climate-conscious and vegan diets gain ground globally. According to WHO estimates, the global meat industry uses, directly or indirectly, a third of the worlds freshwater, and the animal agri industry accounts for 18 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions. Food index survey states that seventy-one per cent of the country is non-vegetarian in a marked contrast to the popular perception that it is predominantly vegetarian, yet Indians have a protein deficit in their diets.In April, the Los Angeles-headquartered plant-based meat substitute company Beyond Meat entered India. Founded in 2009, the company went public a decade later at a $1.5-billion valuation and rocketed up to $13 billion. But as it starts out in Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru, this global heavyweight in a burgeoning category faces competition from local alternative protein players, who are growing in number. Actors Riteish Deshmukh and Genelia DSouza, who turned vegan three years ago, launched Imagine Meat, a plant-based meat foods company. Goa-based Wakao Foods is another company making inroads into the plant-based meat category with its jackfruit-based offerings. The company aims to get every restaurant, hotel, and cafe to have a vegan section on their menu. Further north, the Udaipur-based food tech start-up GoodDot has gained prominence for its mock meat products. In an interview with the Hindu Business Line, the company mentioned that the pandemic has definitely accelerated the willingness of people to try plant-based meat alternatives and believes that India is primed for an exponential growth in the plant-based meat space in the coming days.Not just start-ups, even biggies are serving plant-based alternatives, showing the market is indeed picking up. In December, Jubilant FoodWorks introduced its plant-based protein product The Unthinkable Pizza at Dominos outlets in Delhi-NCR, Mumbai and Bengaluru. Starbucks India offers oat milk, almond milk and soy milk options. Globally, the plant-based meat and beverages movement has been picking up tremendously, pushing players like Coca-Cola, Nestle and PepsiCo to have a presence in this space. Coca-Cola launched an oats milk offering recently.