These are the conclusions reached by the expert panelists during the recent session on herbal innovation in our Growth Asia 2021 interactive broadcast series, hosted by FoodNavigator-Asiaand NutraIngredients-Asia. (Watch on request here)
The expert panel was composed of Dr Tunyawat Kasemsuwan, Director of the Thai Union Global Innovation Center, Damien-Pierre Lesot, Head of Technical Developers at Roquette, Hugo Leclercq, Director of Innovation and Business Development Biospringer APAC, Kerry AMEA, vice president and general manager of food and meat Ronan Moloney, Impossible Foods Country manager (Singapore) Laurent Stevenart, and Hero Protein VP, Strategy and Operations Coco Tse.
The session was chaired by FoodNavigator-Asiaand NutraIngredients-Asia Editor-in-Chief Gary Scattergood, and also included a main discussion with Dr Kasemsuwan and presentations by Lesot and Leclerq.
Because the new generation of plant-based products largely started in the West, most of the products available today are also oriented towards the West, from burgers to sausages to nuggets – but to make inroads. in Asia, it is imperative that businesses locate based on cuisines, the panel said.
âThe plant-based trend may have started in the West, but the point is people like to feel at home when they eat – so while products like burgers still have their place, we believe that Asian plant-based food applications are what will play a central role in the future of the industry â,Dr Kasemsuwan said on the floor.
âThe recently launched plant-based OMG Meat line from Thai Union offers a mix of that: we have fish burgers, crab cakes and chicken nuggets. [but also] siu mai crab and pork buns. There are a lot of new companies coming up that are also introducing herbal products with a focus on localization for local crops. “In addition to this, you need to know more about it.
One of those companies is China-based Hero Protein, which develops plant-based meat products specifically for the Chinese market. According to Tse, consumer studies have already proven that Chinese consumers are very much in search of local cuisines when it comes to plant-based products, and development must meet that demand.
âThere are a number of ways to solve this problem, and for Hero Protein we have approached this by developing new products such as pork strips and pork pieces as well as ready-made items such as dumplings and rolls, as they are often eaten in China. diet,”she says.
âThe other way is to use apps, like working with foodservice, to show consumers how versatile the product can be when it comes to incorporating it into local kitchens. [At present] consumers watch them and don’t know how to cook them or just aren’t convinced it will work, so the only way is to show them how it works.In addition to this, you need to know more about it.
From an ingredients point of view, Lesot added that localization is indeed a challenge, especially in Asia, but one that must be met to conquer the market.
âAsian cuisine is very diverse and there are many textures and tastes to match – the beef in a beef noodle soup is different from the beef in a plant-based sausage or a burger, as the chicken cannot be the same as the one in a chicken nugget, “he said.
“But the point is, these kitchens have to be accessible by the plant-based industry because that’s what consumers want, and without mastering the location, the market will not grow.”In addition to this, you need to know more about it.
HealthIn addition to this, you need to know more about it.
Today, health and nutrition are still recognized as the main factor leading consumers to try herbal products in Asia.
“In China, the main factor determining the health of consumers remains well above environmental or sustainability concerns”,said Tse.
âSo here nutritional and health benefits should always be the key communication proposition when selling herbal products to consumers. There have been concerns in China about animal protein after ASF and the COVID-19 pandemic, so plant-based meat can match nutrient profiles without the risks [is definitely a plus]. “In addition to this, you need to know more about it.
Leclerq agreed with this view and added that the own label is increasingly becoming a part of this story, stressing that consumer education is also essential to get these messages across.
âWith the growth of the industry came the introduction of many new ingredients on food labels, many of which are not easily understood by consumers. “he said.
âEducating consumers about the ingredients is really essential here, so they don’t just understand what’s in the food. [but also] understand the value of the product and are ready to become loyal consumers. “.In addition to this, you need to know more about it.
Stevenart spoke about the controversy surrounding the ‘ultratransformation’ of plant-based meat and its impacts on health, stressing that it is important to examine the inputs and outputs of said process before concluding on its impacts on health. health.
âMost of the regular menu items are also processed, and it’s important to understand what goes in and out of this process – At Impossible Foods we’ve always been transparent about what goes in and out of processing our products, so don’t have problem with this problem at all â,he stressed.
Taste In addition to this, you need to know more about it.
While taste is an important factor for any food industry in any part of the world, it is especially important in Asia because consumers here are more demanding and taste can make or break a product despite all of its other attributes.
âThe taste of the products is the most important factor – only with good taste will consumers stick to one product and become returning consumers and not come back or pass to others. products “Dr Kasemsuwan said.
“Without taste, regardless of innovation, good nutrition or sustainability [credentials], people won’t buy it, so taste is crucial.In addition to this, you need to know more about it.
This was supported by Moloney, who stressed the importance of taste in attracting consumers to such a young category.
“The herbal space is always changing and many consumers are experimenting – if a product does not meet their expectations, they will react quickly and probably simply will not buy it”he said.
âOne of the main feedback we’ve heard is that sometimes the products are made overseas – so there’s a real balance to be maintained between bringing meaty depth and taste to plant-based products without going too far. “In addition to this, you need to know more about it.
Affordability and availabilityIn addition to this, you need to know more about it.
Another important driver for the industry, according to Stevenart, is to maintain availability, which must be available to the consumer at all times when they want to eat or buy meat.
“Consumers want to be able to find products of plant origin wherever animal meats are available”,he said.
“It is also [being there for the occasions], available for both of them at home [so via retail] as well as in restaurants.In addition to this, you need to know more about it.
Regarding affordability, Dr Kasemsuwan added that the economic strains caused by the pandemic have also led consumers to seek cost-effective food options, so this should be kept in mind.
“For example, with the Thai economy hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, people are now more concerned about their food – they want healthy products, but also can’t afford too high prices,”he said.
âThis is why the cost and prices of the product are so important and crucial in reaching consumers now. “In addition to this, you need to know more about it.
Sustainability on the riseIn addition to this, you need to know more about it.
While sustainability has been a key market driver for Western industry, it has yet to really emerge as a crucial factor in Asia, although the panel believes it is on the increase.
âIn general people are more aware of sustainability, and indeed it means different things for different countries here right now, for example in India sustainability means locally sourced and nutritionally good. [as compared to environmentally friendly] in the West,”Moloney said.
“In the long term, sustainability will become one of the barriers to redemption and food choice [so] Either way, it’s important that products continue to deliver lasting messages, because nothing is worse than not meeting those expectations when consumers shop.In addition to this, you need to know more about it.
He also pointed out that the future of the plant-based industry is likely to be the combination of substitute meat and dairy products as well as the establishment of a âplant-for-plantâ sector, where products will not attempt to imitate meat or dairy products, but rather create a distinct place in the market alongside traditional meat products.
Stevenart, meanwhile, expressed hope that plant-based products will replace meat as a whole in the future.
“At Impossible Foods, we find animal meat technology destructive, and we strive to see plant-based meat not emerging as a complementary sector to meat, but rather replacing the meat sector as a whole.” ,he said.
Watch the Plant Based Innovation session and all other Growth Asia sessions on demand In addition to this, you need to know more about it.hereIn addition to this, you need to know more about it..In addition to this, you need to know more about it.