“It’s Not An If, It’s A How”: Green Queen Founder Sonalie Figueiras On Ending Industrial Animal Agriculture
In the third episode of our Up to Speed with UBS podcast, Green Queen's Sonalie Figueiras talks about Asia's booming alternative protein market, the need for localised and regionalised cuisine, and the untapped alternative seafood opportunity
Food and agriculture contribute to 24 percent of global greenhouse emissions worldwide, and with the climate emergency hot on our heels (quite literally), we need to innovate our way towards a more robust food system that is better able to withstand climate impacts. Enter alternative proteins. Offering low-carbon, scalable solutions, with high nutritional value. And they’re pretty tasty, too.
From cellular agriculture to precision fermentation and biomass fermentation, the market is already going from strength to strength. But Figueiras thinks it’s got a lot more growing to do.
So what are the different types of alternative proteins? Forget pork and burgers, how come seafood is the biggest untapped opportunity? How do we create climate-friendly food, which doesn’t compromise on taste? And investment-wise, why is the time now to support local players laying future unicorn groundwork?
In conversation with Gen.T’s Lee Williamson, Figueiras shares thoughts on Asia’s local cuisine scene, emerging consumer tastes and the need to scale for product affordability. As she aptly puts it, “there has never been a bigger opportunity to rethink the way we eat. We have a climate crisis.”
Here are a few excerpts from the conversation. Click the audio player below to listen to the full episode.
ON ASIA’S RECENT INFLUX OF FUNDING
“According to the non-profit think tank the Good Food Institute (GFI), US$5 billion went into alternative protein funding and investments in 2021, and just over 300 million of that was in APAC, across the region.”
ON A LACK OF CONSUMER UNDERSTANDING
“The biggest challenges are consumer acceptance and understanding; there still needs to be a lot of education work to explain what the products are. And to make them familiar to consumers.”
ON THE ONLY PLACE IN THE WORLD YOU CAN BUY CULTIVATED MEAT PRODUCTS
“When it comes to cellular agriculture and anything cultivated, the biggest challenge is regulation. Only one country in the world has regulated, cultivated products for commercial sale, and that is Singapore, which they've done with Good Meat. That remains the only place in the world where it is possible to sell a cultivated meat product.”
ON ENDING INDUSTRIAL ANIMAL AGRICULTURE
“The other big challenge for cultivated meat is going to be scale. We need to get over the hurdle of price, right?. The idea is to end industrial animal agriculture. So we need the price to come down. To be honest, it's going to be at least another 10-20 years before we get it to parity and be accessible in supermarkets.”
ON THE DIVERSITY OF ASIAN CUISINE
“I think what most people fail to realise is Asia is not a uniform, homogenous market, like the United States, right? There are so many different cuisines, sub-regional food cultures. So there's a huge opportunity for all these startups to really offer consumers different products that are adapted to their local needs and dietary requirements.”
ON WHAT DRIVES CONSUMERS
“There are two big drivers for Asian consumers, which are food safety, and health and nutrition. So there's scope for brands that really focus on those two things as their USP.”
UP TO SPEED ON ALTERNATIVE PROTEINS
“There has never been a bigger opportunity to rethink the way we eat. We have a climate crisis. Everyone is now up to speed on the fact that there's a link between our diet and the climate. And so alternative protein is happening. It's not an if, it's a how. It’s not a question of animal protein versus alternative protein. We need both. And we need it now.”
Quotes are edited for clarity and brevity.