Animal-free hits: The Top 10 APAC alternative protein stories in 2021

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

We bring you the top 10 most-read alternative protein stories from the food and beverage industry in 2021.
We bring you the top 10 most-read alternative protein stories from the food and beverage industry in 2021.

Related tags alternative protein

We bring you the top 10 most-read alternative protein stories from the food and beverage industry in 2021, featuring updates on product launches and regulatory updates for plant-based meat, cultured meat, plant-based dairy and more.

Nestle Malaysia CEO Exclusive Part II: Plant-based products to be key 2021 focus but ‘will take time’ to reach full potential

Nestle Malaysia CEO Juan Aranols has outlined the production and marketing strategies for the firm’s venture into the plant-based arena, although he believes it ‘will take time’ for the sector to reach its full potential in Asia.

Nestle Malaysia completed the establishment of a specialized plant-based facility in its Shah Alam plant, its first in South East Asia and the only other one in Asia apart from a China-based facility located in Tianjin which started operations at the end of 2020.

According to Aranols, the firm spent around RM150mn (US$37mn) out of a total of RM280mn (US$69.1mn) allocated CAPEX for 2021 on the facility, dubbed the Plant-Based Meal Solutions (PBMS) manufacturing facility.

‘Not sustainable’: Amul boss lambasts foreign ‘dairy dumping’ and ‘highly processed’ plant-based products as greatest dairy threats

The head of India’s largest milk brand Amul has hit out at excess ‘dairy dumping’ from foreign countries and the recent rise of ‘highly processed’ plant-based dairy as major threats to India’s largest agricultural sector.

Some 100 million families in India are dependent on the dairy industry for a living, and according to Dr Rupinder Singh Sodhi, Managing Director of Amul India and International Dairy Federation board member, recent developments such as increased milk imports and the plant-based dairy movement are causing undue threat to the traditional dairy industry.

“India is one of largest consumers of milk worldwide and also one of the fastest-growing, so when other dairy-rich countries markets are growing, everyone wants to come to India and dump their excess milk production here,”​ Dr Sodhi said.

‘Many firsts’: India’s Axia Foods to develop world’s first vegan butter and cheese made from almond

An Indian-based plant-based start-up which created the world’s first almond-cheese protein bars has branched out into almond-based cheese and butter products, also claiming to be global firsts.

Developed under the Prochez brand, Axia Foods launched its almond cheese and butter earlier in 2021. Currently, almond cheese and butter in the market are in the form of spreads. For Axia, its products are expected to replicate the taste and texture of dairy cheese and butter.

Almond cheese is no stranger for the firm which already makes its protein bars from cultured and aged almond cheese wrapped in dark chocolate, containing about 18g of protein per 150g serving. Apart from strawberry and coffee flavours, it has also expanded with a fruit and matcha variation.

Jasmine Shaikh, founder and CEO, said: “There are protein bars containing almond as a small ingredient, and almond milk, but there was no almond cheese or yoghurt​."

‘Apply ASAP’: Singapore urges cell-based firms to apply early and prioritise safety after Eat Just success

The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) has advised cell-based meat firms looking to get regulatory approval for their products to start the application process as early as possible, and always prioritise food safety to maximise their chances of success.

SFA recently made international headlines by issuing the world’s first regulatory approval of cell-based meat in Singapore to Eat Just for the use of its cell-based (or cultured) chicken as an ingredient in nuggets.

“SFA and the Novel Food Safety Expert Working Group reviewed the data Eat Just provided, which included information on the process, manufacturing control and safety testing of the cultured chicken - This was found to be safe for consumption at the intended levels of use, and so was allowed to be sold in Singapore as an ingredient in Eat Just’s nuggets product,”​ SFA told FoodNavigator-Asia​ in an email statement.

Beyond soy and almond: APAC’s plant-based dairy firms step out of the conventional box with alternative sources and formats

The plant-based dairy industry in the Asia Pacific region has traditionally seen products such as soy milk and almond milk lead the pack, but recently firms have been utilising many more unique plant-based sources to produce dairy alternatives, or creating new interesting plant-based formats to attract consumers.

In this edition of the FNA Deep Dive, we take a closer look at this rapidly growing and evolving industry in APAC to find out more about how this sector is emerging as one of the most diverse globally.

According to data from research consultancy Transparency Market Research, the dairy alternative market in APAC is expected to hit a value of US$19.8bn by 2031, growing at a CAGR of 10.7%. Experts in general believe that growth in the region is largely being driven by consumer health concerns, as opposed to sustainability concerns which are of greater importance in many other regions in the west.

Milk alternatives made from soy, almond and oat are amongst the most common, and can be considered pioneering products for the dairy alternative movement, but in recent years the plant-based dairy industry, particularly in APAC, has gotten increasingly more creative with ingredient sources and product formats, leading to a broad range of products now being available in the region.

Next big plant-based milk? Thai sesame milk firm targets China and Taiwan in global expansion push

Thailand-based Sesamilk Foods is eyeing China and Taiwan as part of its global expansion strategy to increase export business from 30% to 80% in just two years.

The producer of white and black sesame milk (branded: Sesamilk), the company first launched the products in March 2019 and aimed to sell two million units in 2021 whilst focusing on expanding into international markets.

It was launched in China December 2020, and Taiwan in early 2021, tapping on the upcoming Chinese New Year festival.

Sesamilk has been sold in Japan since 2019, Macau, Hong Kong and Vietnam. Australia, India and US are now in the pipeline for the company, according to Siripen Suntornmonkongsri, CEO at Sesamilk Foods.

Affordability and versatility: Nestle Malaysia underlines plant-based strategy with health concerns trumping sustainability…for now

Nestle Malaysia pegged product affordability and versatility as its main plant-based strategies amid the official launch of the firm’s first ever plant-based production facility in the ASEAN region.

The firm believes that, for now, it is consumer health concerns that will drive the category in the country, but noted that sustainability and ethical considerations were gaining traction.

Based within Nestle Malaysia’s Shah Alam complex, which itself measures 82,000 square metres, the Plant-Based Meal Solutions (PBMS) facility was officially launched on April 7.

“In addition to officially opening our site, we [have also unveiled the] Harvest Gourmet consumer product range – [these will] complement the Out Of Home offerings we have already started to introduce [to] our HORECA partners,”​ Aranols said during the launch event.


From noodles to alt protein: Tolaram signals new Asia approach after decades of African domination

Singapore-based multinational conglomerate Tolaram has revealed plans to diversify its focus and enter the Asian food market starting with the alternative protein sector, after several decades of dominating the African noodle industry.

Although the firm’s headquarters are based in Singapore, its commercial food activity has mostly been based in Africa since the 1980s, where it is best known for the local manufacturing of Indomie instant noodles as well as the marketing and distribution of Kellogg’s and Arla brand Dano products. Indomie is the top-selling instant noodle in Nigeria, where it held over 70% of the market as of 2020.

So far, Tolaram’s Asian activities have mostly been centred on the banking sector in Indonesia but moving forward the firm is looking to expand its focus in the region to include more food industry action, starting with the alternative protein industry.

“Providing food and affordable satiety is at the core of what we do, and we have a three-pronged formula for a successful consumer product in emerging markets – it must be acceptable, affordable and available,”​ Tolaram New Business Development Manager Avinash Aswani told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

‘Shackles off’: Japan lays out plant-based labelling rules for meat, dairy, egg and seafood alternatives

Japan has laid out regulations for the labelling of plant-based products, with observers suggesting they are industry-friendly and should not pose problems for brands.

The plant-based industry in Japan has been seeing quite some growth in recent years, with most progress being seen in restaurants experimenting with new menus, bigger conventional meat product manufacturers such as Nippon Ham and Ito Ham launching plant-based alternatives, as well as a few dedicated firms such as NEXT Meats having come into the picture.

However, the government appears unsatisfied with the industry’s rate of progress so far, and has thus implemented new labelling rules to govern the plant-based sector in hopes that this will propel its growth.

“The fact that Japan has until now not discussed the food labelling [of plant-based foods] has been a shackle for corporate business development,”​ Kono Taro, Public Relations Chief of Japan’s ruling faction the Liberal Democratic Party announced.

ALTN-ate: Singapore’s Tee Yih Jia unveils international expansion plans for locally-inspired meat-free range

Singapore's first locally-made meat-free brand ALTN, manufactured by Tee Yih Jia (TYJ) Food Manufacturing, revealed a focus on expanding exports to Asia, EU, Oceania and US in addition to launching in its domestic retail market.

ALTN first launched into Singapore’s food service sector in December 2020, with 10 SKUs such as gyoza, shaomai, Hainanese chicken rice, spaghetti bolognese, chicken nuggets and sausage rolls.

Singapore-based TYJ is a manufacturer of frozen and ready-to-eat Asian convenience foods. Among the brands it produces include Spring Home (spring roll pastry, roti paratha, dim sum), Happy Belly (gyoza skin, wonton skin, mantou), Master Chef (crepe pastry), and Ryushobo (Japanese ramen).

According to TYJ’s assistant market development manager, Collin Sim, the company conceptualised the idea of meat-free products as an alternative solution to its meat and seafood-based dim sum range, which was a challenge to be exported to overseas markets such as US and EU due to health regulations and customs requirements.

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