The most common product format for plant-based meats in APAC thus far has been as frozen products, which comes with a host of challenges as a lot of processing and preservation is needed for these – ultimately more often than not resulting in a product that critics would describe as ultra-processed.
Removing the frozen or chilled factor from manufacturing would not only reduce these challenges, but also bring added environmental sustainability advantages, according to Thoughtful Food Founder Karen Lam.
“The aim of plant-based meat is not only to decrease meat consumption, but also to reduce the environmental impact such as cutting down the need for refrigerated trucks and air-conditioned warehouses,” she told FoodNavigator-Asia in the most recent episode of our Food and Beverage Trailblazers podcast.
“These cold chain logistics are the cause of a lot of emissions, so sticking to a dry and ambient product format can eliminate a lot of this, as well as provide longer shelf life so as to encourage less food wastage.
“In addition, dry products need far less equipment and processing to achieve the final product, and this in turn means there is less need to add additives or preservatives to it which results in a cleaner label.
“We can attest to this as our product has been found clean label to the stage that it is now being used in health-focused locations, such as healthcare institutions and sports schools in Singapore.”
Lam also believes that plant-based products have now gone beyond being just a trend, and is edging towards being recognised as a mainstream category.
“It is certainly no longer seen as just a fad like three to five years back, and getting more mainstream especially in foodservice so we can see it is here to stay and indeed getting more popular,” she said.
“The main hurdle still in the way of going fully mainstream is cost, especially with the ongoing wars causing material and product prices to go up.
“The other thing to consider is that we still need to see market consolidation happen, as during the peak of plant-based entry to this region when Beyond and Impossible came, many small novelty brands entered the market and consumers were faced with an onslaught of brands.
“So I would say we are now going through a correction period – this is where consumers will taste more products and if the texture, taste and price do not meet their expectations, many of them will just leave and not even try another brand much less repeat buy.
“This is normal and happens in any other industry, and we just need another couple of years to fully stabilise.”
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