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Future Food Now: Asia-Pacific (#4)

Welcome (back), We had a big month for plant- and cell-based industry in Asia-Pacific. Exciting new p
Future Food Now: Asia-Pacific (#4)
By Michal Klar • Issue #4 • View online
Welcome (back),
We had a big month for plant- and cell-based industry in Asia-Pacific. Exciting new product launches, major announcements and a sizeable equity round for a local plant-based startup.
In fact, there is so much news that I decided to add a section at the end with brief stories that did not make it into the main part.
Follow a new Facebook page of Future Food Now, send me your feedback and please share the newsletter if you like it.
Thanks and enjoy - Michal

Sunfed Meats raises US$6.9m Series A led by Blackbird Ventures
New Zealand-based startup Sunfed Meats has raised US$6.9m (NZ$10m) in Series A funding round. Australian Blackbird Ventures is the lead investor - also joining are Quadrant Private Equity founder Chris Hadley, K1W1 and NZVIF.
Total disclosed funding to date is ~US$8m. Blackbird now owns 11% of shares, while the founder Shama Lee and her husband Hayden Lee remain the largest shareholders, according to NZ Herald.
Sunfed’s flagship product is Chicken-Free Chicken, sold at many major supermarkets in New Zealand. According to this statement, Sunfed is planning to bring it to Australia in 2019, will be soon releasing their next product in New Zealand (“bull-free beef patty”) and has started R&D on other meat and fish analogues.
Sunfed founder Shama Lee with her plant-based chicken
Sunfed founder Shama Lee with her plant-based chicken
Omnipork launches in Singapore restaurants and HK retail stores
November has been a busy month for Hong Kong startup Right Treat and its flagship product, plant-based Omnipork.
Omnipork launched a retail pack, currently available at Green Common retail stores in Hong Kong, operated by the same parent company. The frozen 230g pack is priced at 43 HKD (US$5.50).
They also expanded to Singapore, with the launch event based on the food truck formula, previously successfully used for Beyond Burger and JUST Egg debuts. This time, a plant-based version of the classic, “Sweet & Sour Omnipork” has been sold in front of Grand Hyatt hotel.
Omnipork is now available at selected restaurants and hotels in Singapore, like Chinese fine-dining Jade or Western-style meat-focused CarversX. The company representatives told me they expect to launch retail pack in Singapore in January.
Omnipork retail pack (source: Green Queen HK)
Omnipork retail pack (source: Green Queen HK)
JUST Egg to enter mainland China in early 2019
JUST is likely to become the first major plant-based startup from the United States to enter mainland China.
CEO Josh Tetrick recently announced the move during the event in Singapore. Here is what Andrew Noyes, Head of Communications at JUST told me when asked about more details:
Our launch event is on December 13th in Shanghai. It will include Josh Tetrick, our China GM Cyrus Pan, members of our China team, business partners, investors, media, food influencers and VIPs. We are working on JUST Egg availability early next year in food service and e-commerce.
In Asia Pacific region, JUST Egg is currently available at selected restaurants in Hong Kong and Singapore (no retail pack yet).
Part of Shanghai launch event menu (source: JUST)
Part of Shanghai launch event menu (source: JUST)
Quorn brings "chickless" wings and nuggets to 4FINGERS chain
One of the original Western meat substitute companies, Quorn has been founded in 1985 in the UK. In 2015 it was acquired for about US$800m by Philippine-based food conglomerate Monde Nissin. Since then they are gradually expanding in Asia, recently launching a major food service partnership and a marketing campaign in Singapore.
In November, Quorn partnered with 4FINGERS, Singapore-based fast food chain described to me by a local as “KFC for millennials”. 13 outlets across the island are offering meatless options based on Quorn products - Chickless Wings and Chickless Nuggets. They are not 100% plant-based as egg white is used as a binder (Quorn also has a “vegan” range).
I asked Dave Acton, CEO of 4FINGERS about the partnership. He explained they are targeting “flexitarian consumer”. Asked about the popularity of the new offering, he replied:
At this point, it’s safe to say it’s exceeded our forecasts, and inspired us to think about the next [step].
Dave also confirmed they are considering bringing it over to other markets they operate. Which one first? “Australia should be equally receptive” - he said.
Green Monday expands to Singapore with 20+ partners
Green Monday, the social enterprise originating from Hong Kong, has officially launched in Singapore. Green Monday works with restaurants, hotels and other institutions to bring more plant-based options to their menus (via consulting and distribution of products like Beyond Burger and Omnipork).
During the launch event, Grand Hyatt Singapore’s F&B Director Jerome Pagnier talked about the hotel’s commitment to sustainable food options and popularity of plant-based products at their restaurants (e.g. Beyond Burger outselling beef burger 3:1).
Leading to the launch, Green Monday signed up 20+ partners, representing 80+ outlets island-wide, including major chains like SaladStop, Cedele, Pizza Express & The Prive Group, plant-based restaurants HRVST & Whole Earth as well as hotels The Fullerton, Novotel at Stevens and more.
Green Monday Singapore launch partners & guests
Green Monday Singapore launch partners & guests
Asia's first semi-public tasting of cell-based meat
Josh Tetrick’s (JUST) keynote during the recent Rethink Agri-Food Innovation Week in Singapore included a short cooking demo on stage, featuring some cell-based meat.
A chef from JUST prepared two cultured chicken nuggets - see photos below. I got a chance to try a piece - it tasted, well, like chicken - in its most processed “nugget” form.
It was the first semi-public tasting of cell-based meat in Asia and reportedly only third time JUST has done this outside of their HQ. Only other known tastings in Asia were small, strictly private events by Integriculture, Japanese startup.
Previously JUST announced that they will have similar cell-based chicken nugget available at selected restaurants “by the end of 2018”. When I asked Josh Tetrick about it in late November, he said they are still working on it with regulators in several countries.
JUST's cultured chicken nugget in Singapore
JUST's cultured chicken nugget in Singapore
Impossible's "heme" approved in SG and other announcements
Several other announcements related to plant-based and cell-based industry have been made during the same event (Rethink Agri-Food Innovation Week):
  • Economic Development Board presented the three pillars of Singapore’s agri-food strategy - one of them is “Alternative Proteins” (others: Vertical Farming and Aquaculture)
  • AVA (Singapore’s FDA) announced that Impossible Foods’ “heme” ingredient is now approved; according to my sources, the burger is scheduled to launch in Singapore in Q1 2019
  • Asked about the status of regulations for cell-based meat in Singapore, AVA’s representative said they have been “exploring and meeting with several relevant companies” - sounded like it is still very early stage
  • Wilmar International, one of Asia’s leading agribusiness groups, confirmed it has recently entered into agreement to acquire Green Farm Food - Malaysian company founded in 1989, manufacturing wide range of Asian-style “mock meats” for domestic and international market; Wilmar said it “will give them the product and manufacturing know-how to support customers producing plant protein meat replacement”.
Plant-based protein panel during Agri-Food Innovation Week
Plant-based protein panel during Agri-Food Innovation Week
Otsuka launches Zero Meat product line in Japan
Otsuka, Japanese food & pharma conglomerate, launched its first line of meat alternatives in Japan under Zero Meat brand.
First two products are burgers (frozen), one of which is filled with “soymilk cheese”. They are not 100% plant-based - an egg is one of the ingredients. The company said it would be “developing a variety of meat substitute foods” under Zero Meat brand.
Otsuka acquired Canadian plant-based dairy company Daiya for ~US$300m in 2017. Other notable investments in plant-based space by Japanese companies include Mitsui putting US$15m into JUST (2015) and Nishimoto investing in Ocean Hugger Foods (2018).
Beyond Burger increases retail availability in AUS & NZ
Beyond Burger is now available at more locations across Australia and New Zealand. The product is stocked at ~200 of Coles stores and selected IGA stores in Australia and has been recently rolled out across nearly half of the locations of Countdown in New Zealand (major supermarket chain owned by Woolworths Group).
A representative of Coles said the company trialled the product in 15 selected stores across Melbourne earlier this year and in some stores, it sold out in hours.
The Beyond Burger retail price is ranging from US$8.00-9.50 in AUS/NZ, depending on the retailer.
Two plant-based food events in Beijing
While we do not hear much about plant-based food startups in mainland China (the market is nascent), there is no shortage of conferences, ‘forums’ and events.
Next Generation Good Food Forum in Beijing’s “Silicon Valley” has been organised by Dao Foods with participation from New Crop Capital, Good Food Institute, ProVeg International, Jeremy Coller Foundation and others. Good overview here.
Future Food Forum 2018 in early December gathered a number of non-profits (including GFI) and government organisations. China Plant Based Food Alliance (PBFA) has been announced during the event as a joined initiative of SFNCC and ACNG of China National Food Association - the organisation that in 2016 contributed to widely reported nutrition guideline calling for 50% reduction in meat consumption in China. It is not clear at the moment if any food companies are planning to join the Alliance.
Elaine Siu, GFI Managing Director Asia Pacific (ce.cn)
Elaine Siu, GFI Managing Director Asia Pacific (ce.cn)
In other news...
💰 Asian investors Bits x Bites (China) and ID Capital (Singapore) participated in US$4.25m round of funding for InnovoPro, Israeli producer of innovative chickpea protein to be used in dairy alternatives and meat analogues.
🌭 Beyond Sausage from Beyond Meat launched in selected restaurants in Hong Kong - the first international market for the product. It is expected to expand to Singapore in January.
🥛 HK-based Vitasoy announced the construction of US$143m manufacturing plant in Guangdong, China with production to commence in 2021. Vitasoy offers plant-based milks & beverages in China, HK, Australia with an annual revenue of >US$800m.
🥩 JUST partnered with Japanese Wagyu beef producer Toriyama and their export agent Awano Food Group to develop and distribute cell-cultured version of Wagyu beef. No timelines were given. Awano also distributes JUST Egg product in Singapore.
🍔 Burger King (called Hungry Jack’s in Australia) is piloting a burger based on soy-protein patty at one location in Canberra. The chain has also recently introduced Vegan Cheeseburger with double “veggie patty” made of corn, capsicum and carrot.
🥐 Founders of Australian plant-based fast food chain Lord of the Fries recently opened new 100% plant-based pastry and ice-cream shop Weirdoughs in Melbourne, possibly to be developed into another chain/franchise in the future.
🌁 For startups looking for investors, consider The Alternative Protein Show in San Francisco on Jan 15-17th with last day dedicated to meetings with relevant VCs. APAC-based Shiok Meats and Evolution Meadows are planning to be there.
👍 Remember to follow FFN’s new Facebook page here.

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Michal Klar

Monthly digest of plant-based business news from Asia-Pacific.

Covering: plant-based and cell-based startups, funding, new products, major events, consumer trends and more.

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