Tech collaboration: Thai Union reveals ambition to widen healthier RTE portfolio with low-GI products
Alchemy raised a seven figure investment from its recent bridge round with multiple investors from all over the world. The investment round was overall led by Thai Union and also included big names like Shanghai VC Bits x Bites and South Korean VC Sunbo Partners.
The firm’s GI-lowering technology and products allowing for better control of blood sugar levels have garnered them widespread interest, particularly with the launch of its powder blend Alchemy Fibre last year, which lowers the GI of any rice it is added to without changing taste or texture.
“Through their products, Alchemy can help consumers enjoy a healthier diet without compromising on taste. [We] see multiple angles for future collaborations and are looking forward to supporting them as they grow their businesses beyond Singapore,” said Thai Union Group Director Strategy Patrick Bertalanffy.
One of these collaboration angles will be in the ready-to-eat meals business, both under Thai Union’s own brands and via private label and OEM – a business expected to see good growth moving forward, according to Thai Union Global Innovation Director Dr Tunyawat Kasemsuwan.
“We’ve been working with Alchemy Foodtech since they participated in our accelerator SPACE-F, and truly feel their technology and products are ones with a lot of opportunity,” Dr Kasemsuwan told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“Thai Union is best-known for our seafood products, but we also do a lot in ready-to-eat meals, food service, restaurants, OEM and so on, where the opportunities to work with Alchemy’s technology are very high.
“The RTE meals segment especially is one we are seeing very strong interest in, particularly because of the convenience factor it brings what with more and more people working from home and eating at home – so this investment makes a lot of sense for us.
“More importantly, we are all about increasing healthy living for our consumers and bringing more healthier food products to them, so low GI is a way to do that – some people may think it only applies to diabetics, but no, it applies overall to eating healthy.”
Alchemy also expressed excitement on working with Thai Union to develop healthier low-GI products such as RTE meals.
“Thai Union has been extremely helpful ever since we met them via SPACE-F – within just a few meetings, they had already given us many suggestions and directions to think of and strategise with,” Alchemy FoodTech Chief Food Fighter and Co-Founder Verleen Goh told us.
“They’re a leader not just in the seafood space but also OEM for many companies so have a lot of experience and a strong network, so we are confident working with them can help us to open up a big market as well.
“We’ve started working on some trials with them around RTE, and they’ve helped us as a big food manufacturer to understand things like regulations and operations, knowledge which we will tap on and learn from.”
Production and expansion
Goh also revealed that Alchemy’s plans for the new investment funds will be very focused on increasing its production capacity in Singapore, which will in turn boost its plans to expand into overseas markets.
“We’re looking at things like increasing manpower and conducting deeper market research, purchasing new equipment to make our operations more automated, expanding our R&D – we want to increase production capacity with an eye on manufacturing enough to handle overseas expansion,” she said.
China has been identified as a key market by the firm because around one-third of diabetic adults are currently found in China. Type II diabetes which arises from lifestyle and diet factors, is the culprit behind most diabetic cases worldwide, some 90% - and this is the area Alchemy hopes to target with its GI-lowering technology.
“[The] partnerships [from this bridge round] will help to provide us with better market access into international channels such as leading supermarkets, convenience and retail chains, and countries including China which we have identified as a key market opportunity,” said Alchemy CEO Alan Phua.
“[This] will help with our upscaling and internationalisation to aid fellow Asians in the fight against diabetes.”
Alchemy is also working with local Singaporean food manufacturers like Gardenia and Kang Kang Noodles to develop low-GI products including bread and noodles, which will be hitting local supermarkets soon.