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Future Food Now: Asia-Pacific (#6)

Welcome (back), Another interesting month for alt-protein industry in Asia-Pacific with local cell-ba
Future Food Now: Asia-Pacific (#6)
By Michal Klar • Issue #6 • View online
Welcome (back),
Another interesting month for alt-protein industry in Asia-Pacific with local cell-based startup accepted into Y Combinator and major plant-based players expanding throughout the region.
Please send your feedback and share the newsletter with your friends if you enjoy it.
Cheers - Michal

Shiok Meats joins Y Combinator, raises over US$500k in pre-seed round
Shiok Meats, cell-based seafood startup from Singapore, is the first of its kind to join Y Combinator, top Silicon Valley accelerator with a combined valuation of alumni companies exceeding US$100b.
The fund invests US$150k in exchange for 7% equity. The investment brings a total pre-seed round of Shiok Meats to over US$500,000. Founders Sandhya Sriram and Ka Yi Ling have just presented on YC Demo Day and started to raise a substantially larger seed round.
The company has been recently covered extensively by TechCrunch (here) and TechInAsia (here - paywall). Initially they are focusing on cell-cultured de-shelled shrimp, with the first tasting of the early shrimp dumpling prototype planned for an upcoming DFSS event in Singapore at the end of March.
According to the TiA article, the actual prototype for market production will take two more years to come out. By 2020, Shiok Meats expects to begin taste-testing in high-end restaurants to get feedback from customers.
TechCrunch reports that the company is looking to bring its first commercial product to market in the next three-to-five years and will initially target the Asia-Pacific consumer.
Shiok Meats founders at YC Demo Day
Shiok Meats founders at YC Demo Day
Impossible Foods launches in Singapore
In early March, Impossible Foods debuted its flagship plant-based beef product in Singapore. It is the third international market for the company after Hong Kong and Macau.
SG launch event was held at Lau Pa Sat, a well-known hawker centre in the city’s CBD. For one night pop-up selected chefs and hawkers used Impossible’s ground beef in several dishes ranging from burgers to local specialities like char kway teow.
Organisers prepared food for 500 people, but the event has proven to be very popular and some walked away empty-handed. Social media comments suggest a miscommunication when it comes to animal-based ingredients in some of the dishes. While Impossible Foods’ products are 100% plant-based, chefs often match them with dairy and other animal ingredients as the target audience is primarily omnivore/flexitarian.
Following the launch event Impossible dishes debuted at 8 selected partner restaurants across Singapore, including some with Michelin stars. I reached out to some of them and asked about how customers are reacting to Impossible’s product so far. Here is what they said:
Yuan Oeij, chairman of The Privé Group: We were sold out for most of the items at both venues on [days following the launch]. There is still continued interest going forward. Customer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. […] In fact, we’ve managed to persuade some customers who were initially thinking of ordering meat dishes to try the Impossible specials and they were thrilled!
Adam Penney, executive chef at Three Buns by Potato Head: I first contacted Impossible back in 2014 and have been in touch since. I am extremely proud they have us as one of their launch partners. […] The Impossible burgers outsold burger to burger the rest of our menu items during opening weekend. We had a lot of regular meat eaters [coming to try it] and a lot more vegetarians than we would normally have at the Three Buns.
Sabrina Stillhart, executive chef at Bread Street Kitchen by Gordon Ramsay: [Diners] were impressed by how the plant-based meat resembles beef in terms of taste and texture. One of the most popular dishes is The Impossible Wellington, which is a remake of Gordon Ramsay’s signature Beef Wellington. […] Based on the positive responses so far, we have plans to offer more Impossible dishes, including in our breakfast and brunch menus.
The company has seen a lot of media coverage in the days following the launch and some articles included reviews of Impossible dishes.
According to Nick Halla, SVP International of Impossible Foods, partnerships with “influential” hotels will come next as well as “dozens” new eateries in SG every month.
Impossible’s retail pack is launching in the US stores later this year - and “soon after” in Asia, according to Jordan Sadowsky, Director of International Expansion.
During the media event, CEO Pat Brown has been asked about further expansion and mentioned Australia & New Zealand among upcoming markets. He also said they are looking at China, but assume that the regulatory approval process may take much longer there.
Singapore’s government investment fund Temasek has been part of nearly US$400m funding that Impossible has raised so far.
Chinese dishes with Impossible at EMPRESS (source: Prive Group)
Chinese dishes with Impossible at EMPRESS (source: Prive Group)
New cell-based meat initiatives in India and China
Cellular agriculture research and cell-based startup environment is still nascent in China and India, but several new initiatives and data points suggest it may soon accelerate.
The Economic Times reported (with an overly optimistic headline) on a new joined project by Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT) Mumbai and non-profit The Good Food Institute to establish region’s first dedicated cellular agriculture research centre by 2020. According to the article, both organisations will jointly focus on raising funds […] for the centre. 
Also in India, a group of entrepreneurs and scientists - Kartik Dixit, Pawan Dhar and Siddharth Manvanti - are raising funds for what might become the country’s first cell-based startup, called Clear Meat. The team just graduated from ProVeg incubator and pitched the idea to investors, including GlassWall Syndicate.
Over in Hong Kong, new cell-based startup Avant Meats is being established by co-founders Carrie Chan (CEO) and Mario Chin (CSO). Carrie told me they are focused on cell-based fish and seafood protein products that are tailored to the food culture, preferences and behaviours of consumers in China and in the region. Initial offerings will be cell-based fish maw products. Pipeline direction will focus on fish and other Chinese aquatic delicacies. The team is currently raising a pre-seed round.
Last, but not least recently published consumer study is suggesting relatively high acceptance of future cell-based meat products among Chinese and Indian consumers (Vox article covering the results here). The authors of the study admit the results are skewed towards urban, affluent population of both countries (hence does not make much sense to compare to the US result), but it is likely that at least some part of population is quite open to the concept.
More news...
💵 Asian funds Temasek, Horizons Ventures, ADM Capital led US$34.7 Series B round for Perfect Day, US-based startup working on animal-free dairy proteins (whey and casein) via a fermentation process, bringing its total funding to US$74.7m
🇨🇳 New Crop Capital, VC fund focused exclusively on plant-based and cell-based industries, has appointed Dao Foods International to source and support investments in alt-protein startups in mainland China (no investments have been made yet)
💰 NZ’s Fonterra, one of the world’s largest dairy companies (~30% of industry’s global exports), made its first alternative protein investment by participating in US$90m Series A round for Motif Ingredients, the biotech startup using fermentation to manufacture protein ingredients for plant-based and cell-based products
🍔 Beyond Burger has launched in South Korea, represented by F&B subsidiary of a local conglomerate Dongwon; it is available online at major marketplaces for ~US$10.50/pack and several restaurants in Seoul; supermarket distribution is planned for April and other Beyond Meat products should launch later this year
🛒 Beyond Burger expanded retail distribution in Singapore to 24 outlets of Fairprice Finest supermarket, bringing total store count to 36, including 4 online
🍔 Grill’d and Ribs&Burgers with 100+ combined outlets are the first mainstream fast food chains in Australia to introduce Beyond Burger to their menus, earlier available at plant-based chains like LoTF and Soul Burger; Grill’d founder Simon Crowe pledged to gradually move half of the menu to plant-based by end of next year (up from 13% now)
🚚 Grand Hyatt Singapore brought its food truck to Singapore Cancer Society’s Relay for Life event, selling ~450 plant-based hot dogs with Beyond Sausage; GHS told me more plant-based truck events in SG are planned for coming months
🌏 New Zealand chain Burger Wisconsin has launched 100% plant-based burger at all 25 locations, using a patty from Hungry Planet (Missouri-based company focused mostly on food service)
Articles, resources and events
🎤 Last chance to register for Disruption in Food & Sustainability Summit at Grand Hyatt Singapore on March 29th; great line up of speakers from Impossible Foods, Quorn/Monde Nissin, The Good Food Institute, Food Frontier, ProVeg and A*STAR among others; I will be sharing what I’ve learned about plant-based and cell-based investing in Asia-Pacific
🐽 Hong Kong startup Omnipork has been recently featured in a Washington Post article titled It’s the Year of the Pig. Is it also the year fake pork takes off in China? (paywall)
📗 Melbourne-based Food Frontier just published a new report called “Meat Re-imagined”, covering developments in plant-based and cell-based industries, with focus on Australia - download here
📊 Consumer survey commissioned by Green Monday in Hong Kong suggests the number of consumers following vegetarian diet increased by 50% between 2016 and 2018 - to 3.7% of HK population, and nearly 24% of people practice some form of ‘meat reduction’ (up from 22%); full article here
👍🏼 To get fresh updates on top news, follow FFN’s Facebook page
Did you enjoy this issue?
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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