Nutritional Outlook: Asia Pacific is a promising market for plant-based meat

plant based meat sales is improving and booming in apac

In 2022, the number of investment deals in the overall plant-based food segment fell from 38 to 33. In particular, the American and European regions experienced problems like business closures. The market for plant-based foods, however, is expanding in the Asia Pacific region right now. In 2022, investment in the APAC plant-based food industry increased by 30%, reaching a valuation of about $372 million. These investments are spread out across the region rather than concentrated in one nation. Through regulatory approvals, research, innovation, and development, major nations like Singapore, China, and India are promoting investments.

Within plant-based foods, plant-based meat, cultivated meat, and cell-based meat are still the talk of the town and making headlines all over the world. These segments have shown consistent growth over the years by addressing some critical environmental and sustainability factors.

Globally, the market for plant-based meat has grown sporadically over the last decade. It’s expected that the category will continue growing at a rate of around 8% over the next five years. One of the main reasons for the explosive growth of this segment in Asian nations is easier access to raw materials such as soy, peas, oats, and so on, which are required for plant-based meat.

Singapore’s Global Footprint Backed by Strong Government Support

Singapore has a strong presence in the APAC plant-based meat market. Food manufacturers in Singapore are primarily focused on strengthening the nation’s food security, with significant support from the country’s government. Their goal is to contribute to food security by producing increased quantities of meat without using any animals or animal sources.

Numerous domestic manufacturers in Singapore specialize in the production of plant-based meat products, which contributes to Singapore’s global market positioning. For example, Next Gen Foods, the pioneering startup known for its popular plant-based chicken brand Tindle, has secured a groundbreaking $100 million investment from a number of well-known companies in the sector. Additionally, Shandi Global recently inaugurated Singapore’s “largest” plant-based-chicken manufacturing facility, indicating advancements in the sector.

Singapore is heavily dependent on imports for its overall food sector, so the government has started a multi-agency initiative to boost domestic production. FoodInnovate is a new government initiative that aims to support businesses and their growth by offering a range of resources, including grant opportunities, talent recruitment tools, and access to shared-use manufacturing facilities for production.

The government of Singapore has turned the nation-state into a starting point for global climate and food security solutions. This has made it possible for alternative-protein startups to advance quickly from conceptualization to pilot production and then broad commercialization.

Plant-based meat products are gradually aligning their pricing with that of conventional meat, and novel approaches such as fermentation and cell-based production are being used to maintain consumer interest in alternative meat. The growth of cell-based meat substitutes, a sub-segment of the alternative-meat market, is also noticeable globally—and in Singapore, in particular, thanks to the country’s regulatory approval. In 2020, Singapore became the first nation to approve the sale of cell-cultivated meat in the country.

India: An Emerging Hotspot

Since a large portion of the population in India already practices vegetarianism, plant-based food producers initially struggled to boost sales in the nation. Manufacturers’ efforts have included promoting the overall advantages of plant-based and vegan foods for the environment, animal welfare, sustainability, eco-friendliness, and maximizing protein intake from vegetarian sources. One of the regional plant-based brands in India is Shaka Harry, which sells vegan meat and is renowned for its environmentally friendly offerings. It is well known for its reasonably priced plant-based meat options and for working well with delivery partners like BigBasket (a delivery partner) and most recently making its international debut at Mustafa Center in Singapore. Shaka Harry is a rapidly growing vegan food, meat and snack brand in South Asia that secured $2 million in funding in 2022.

Businesses today employ a variety of marketing techniques to increase sales both domestically and abroad while also trying to increase product as well as brand awareness. In order to increase brand resonance, many Indian plant-based manufacturing companies, including Blue Tribe Foods and Imagine Meats, are recruiting celebrities to serve as investors and brand ambassadors. These two companies also prioritize exporting their goods and partnering with other businesses to increase their market share.

Due to aggressive marketing tactics, customers are being persuaded to buy these plant-based products in India and to explore the culinary possibilities of tasting meat without actually eating it.

China’s Top Priority Is Boosting Investments

Chinese consumers are driven towards a meat-based diet. It is difficult to shift consumers to a plant-based diet without providing a complete replication of the taste, texture, and flavor of meat. Thus, government involvement is one of the strategies being employed to increase consumption and to increase the Chinese population’s awareness of the positive and negative aspects of following/adopting a plant-based diet.

In recent years, China has been paying constant attention to the meat-alternatives market. The Chinese government is constantly supporting the nation’s interests in order to achieve food security, particularly in the plant-based meat sector. Because of the government’s increased support, private funding in China is expanding across a broader spectrum of plant-based meat and alternative-protein ingredients. The continuation of increased funding in the coming years will clearly indicate the nation’s accelerating growth in the plant-based sector. It will significantly increase the production of plant-based meat, which will meet the country’s densely populated demand.

Starfield, a well-known name in the Chinese alt-food space, has confirmed a $100 million Series B investment round, which could boost its visibility, collaboration (with over 100 brands), and product portfolio. Since the sector’s inception, the market for alternative foods has trended upward, and it appears that the Chinese consumer is also accepting these products as a result of the country’s increased urbanization and per capita income.

Sales Boom in the Rest of Asia

Thailand increased its exports of plant-based food products by 20% in 2022 (out of which the plant-based meat segment accounted for a major share), making it APAC’s only net exporter. Due to the government’s emphasis on growing and establishing the domestic market, businesses in Thailand are primarily focused on domestic sales, placing little emphasis on exports.

Price is still a consideration in these countries, where people prefer the flavor, taste, and aroma of traditional meat. This, combined with a lack of awareness of the benefits of plant-based meat, results in limited growth.

Even though domestic consumption is limited, manufacturers’ innovative ideas and strategies offer a ray of hope for the coming years. Thailand-based Nutra Regenerative Protein Company, Ltd., is getting ready to open a production facility with a maximum capacity of 3000 tons per year for original equipment manufacturing (OEM) solutions. Also, in Korea, at various branches of Starbucks, new plant-based dishes were introduced, and it wasn’t a shock to learn that over 100,000 units were sold in just two weeks. With the South Korean government’s new official guidelines to remove restrictions from various methods of producing plant-based products, the country may see or accept new protein products in the coming years.

In a Nutshell

APAC clearly demonstrates the principle of slow and steady growth. The global inflation wave has undeniably tempered the plant-based meat segment in major economies like the UK and the U.S. However, the majority of the impact is recoverable due to a population that is ready for change and a market that is gradually but steadily expanding.

The plant-based meat segment has not always been welcomed in APAC, but there is a clear shift happening. Plant-based meat sales are increasing, and with the right government support, companies are not afraid to experiment with better and cleaner versions of their products. With rising consumer demand, APAC is unquestionably a promising region for a thriving plant-based market.

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This article was originally published in Nutritional Outlook, written by Shreya Rajput, Associate Consultant (FNB) at ChemBizR.

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