Cloud Talk: How Asia Is Leading In Alternative Protein
Gen.T spoke to founders and executives of companies producing alternative protein sources in Asia to find out how market demand has grown for their products, and why alt-protein businesses are flocking to the region
In the 16 months since we held our first Cloud Talk on alternative protein, so much has happened in the sector in Asia.
Between 2019 and 2020, the number of investment increased six-fold, with Asia becoming the fastest-growing region in the world.
In Hong Kong, Green Monday is leading the way among Asia's plant-based companies after raising US$70 million last September. Shiok Meats, run by 2020 Gen.T honouree Ling Kayi, also secured US$12.6 million in Series A funding that same month—the largest amount of funding received by any cultured meat company in Asia to date. In December 2020, Singapore also became the first country in the world to approve the sale of cultured meat, when it approved a product made by Eat Just's Good Meat brand.
At the August 25 edition of our Cloud Talk series, Gen.T spoke with several key players to better understand the speed of growth of Asia's alternative protein sector, which markets are growing fastest and what's next on the menu. The session was organised in partnership with HSBC Global Private Banking.
In her opening remarks, Fan Cheuk Wan—chief investment officer, Asia, HSBC Global Private Banking and Wealth Management—set the scene for the discussion, highlighting the need for sustainable efforts to be prioritised. “In addition to the challenges of climate change and extreme weather, the world is facing greater difficulties to meet our long-term food demand. It is a critical time to make food production more sustainable to avoid further damaging and wasting natural resources,” she said.
Following her speech, Gen.T's regional editorial director Lee Williamson moderated a panel discussion with three leaders of companies in the space to discuss how Asia is leading in alternative protein.
Photo 1 of 3 Josh Tetrick, co-founder and CEO of Eat Just
Photo 2 of 3 Fengru Lin, co-founder and CEO of Turtletree
Photo 3 of 3 Kelvin Ng, business development director (ASEAN) of Green Monday
Speakers included Josh Tetrick, co-founder and CEO of Eat Just, which owns plant-based brand Just Egg and cultured meat brand Good Meat; Fengru Lin, co-founder and CEO of Turtletree, which uses cell-based techniques to create milk; and Kelvin Ng, who heads the business development team for ASEAN at Green Monday, known for its plant-based OmniFoods brand.
Here are the key highlights from the discussion.
Why Asia needs to pave the way
“More human beings today are eating chicken, pork, beef... in Asia than in the world, and that’ll be even more true tomorrow,” said Tetrick. “So, if there is to be a solution, it necessarily needs to be led by Asia.”
Adding to his point, Ng said, “Asia has embraced the alternative protein space very differently from the rest of the world, because of the way we eat. If you look at our diets, we tend to eat a huge variety of proteins—we could be eating seafood for breakfast as well as for supper. So we need to do something now to make this consumption sustainable. In a way, Asia has no choice, as the per capita consumption of proteins is so high here that [embracing alternative proteins] is just a matter of survival.”
Addressing the concerns of consumers
“From our research, we found that people care about the nutritional profile and taste of the product they’re consuming more than anything else,” said Lin. “They’re also concerned about what takes place during our production process. So educating consumers is key.
“As a brand, we focus our message on the nutritional aspects of our ingredients and products, as well as reassuring consumers that there are no animals involved in any part of our process.”
An advice for alternative protein startups
“One of the most important things an alternative protein startup can do is to go to market,” said Tetrick. “You can theorise like crazy, join panels like this or look at survey data, but those can only get you so far [in terms of product development]. But when you launch and talk to people about what it is they like, don’t like, want more of, want less of, you’ll get a better sense of what bothers them and how you can get to the heart of it [and address it].”