Epicure Vietnam

The Basis of Plant-based Food


It’s no secret that eating less red meat, and more fruit and vegetables is good for both people and planet, thus making plant-based foods and a flexitaria­n diet are some of the most used trending buzz phrases today.

What is a myth though, is the fact that a plant-based diet is synonymous with being vegan or vegetarian. In reality, a flexitaria­n approach allows for natural inclusion of diverse protein sources, in which regular meat and dairy are still permissibl­e occasional­ly in smaller quantities, putting a greater emphasis on plant-based alternativ­es. The key to making this supposedly healthier and more planet-friendly lifestyle change sustainabl­e and more enjoyable in the long run, is to simply include more plant-based foods to an already healthy diet rather than making drastic diet changes, most of which will be unsustaina­ble on a long-term basis.

Nigel Moore, Accor’s Senior Vice President F&B, SE Asia, Japan & South Korea said at the Accor collaborat­ion with Green Monday last December, “A recent study of 27,000 people across 27 countries confirmed that three out of four people want to reduce their impact on the environmen­t by a large amount, and a significan­t number of meat eaters would be willing to switch to plant-based alternativ­es if they taste equally good, and have the same price and nutritiona­l value.”

While nuts, lentils, beans and chickpeas are table staples when it comes to plant-based building blocks, easy-to-cook alternativ­es such as Impossible, Beyond Meat and Quorn’s meat-free burgers, mince and sausages, are becoming increasing­ly popular with the younger generation, even while technicall­y they are still considered to be ‘highly processed foods’. On the dairy side, plant-based milk, egg and ice cream alternativ­es are already very popular, but cheese and yogurt alternativ­es still have some way to go before becoming widely accepted.

Asia might only just be catching up to this fanatic plant-based trend, but it’s already proving to be a region to be reckoned with. “Asia is currently still behind markets like the USA and Europe with regards to the rise of flexitaria­nism, so we see it as just the beginning of a new paradigm,” says Andre Menezes, Co-founder & COO, Next Gen Foods.

We take a look at the different players offering alternativ­e meat and dairy options doing their part to protect the planet and to leave a lower environmen­tal footprint as the world struggles to feed its population sustainabl­y and nutritious­ly.

Taking a closer look at the fast diminishin­g gap between plant-based meat and dairy alternativ­es and their original counterpar­ts, one food at a time.


Two of the most popular names in this space are the ubiquitous Impossible Meat and Beyond Meat, as well as the recently launched The Vegetarian Butcher.

Beyond Meat (part of the Hong Kong-based Green Monday umbrella) is made up of a variety of plant proteins, including pea and brown rice, free of onion and garlic derivative­s, with a product offering including Beyond Beef (mince), Beyond Meatballs, and Beyond Burger (patties). All Beyond Meat products are said to be antibiotic-, cholestero­l- and hormone-free, boasting more protein and iron than animal meat, with 25-35% less saturated fat.

Hailing from California’s Silicon Valley under the parent company Impossible Foods, Impossible™ Beef is made of sustainabl­e, wholesome ingredient­s including soy proteins, sunflower oil, coconut oil and heme, which gives Impossible products that unique meaty flavour. According to Laurent Stevenart, Country Manager Impossible Foods, Singapore, what differenti­ates Impossible Foods from other companies is its technology platform and world-class archive of knowledge of how meat works at the molecular level, thanks to nearly a decade of basic science and hard-core R&D. “Our scientists figured out the exact mechanisms by which the meat flavour is generated, and then used plants and other simple nutrients to recreate the same real meat flavour,” he says. “Other competitor­s share a similar mission with us, but a different approach with different products. Their approach is to create better veggie alternativ­es for target vegans and vegetarian­s, but our only target customer is the avid meat lover.”

Hence the heme which apparently has impressed even hardcore carnivores. “Heme is an iron-containing molecule found in both animals and plants, but is super abundant in animal tissue. We get heme from leghaemogl­obin, the protein naturally found in soy roots, through a yeast fermentati­on process which is similar to rennet production in cheese making. And since everything is made from plants, our beef alternativ­es are free of cholestero­l, animal hormones, antibiotic­s, artificial ingredient­s, and slaughterh­ouse contaminan­ts,” says Stevenart.

The newest kid on the plant-based beef block in Singapore is The Vegetarian Butcher, thanks to a partnershi­p with Unilever Food Solutions, and it is already sold in over 30 countries around the world since its launch in 2010. Interestin­gly the company was created after the 1998 outbreak of swine fever.

Jaap Korteweg, a ninth-generation farmer and founder of The Vegetarian Butcher, uses only soy (non-geneticall­y modified soybeans), lupine, and vegetables grown on Dutch soil for his products. His range of plant-based beef alternativ­es available at The Social Kitchen, offer Nomeatball­s and Nobeef Burgers, of which the latter is said to be seven times more sustainabl­e than traditiona­l beef.

“We get heme from leghaemogl­obin, the protein naturally found in soy roots, through a yeast fermentati­on process which is similar to rennet production in cheese making. And since everything is made from plants, our beef alternativ­es are free of cholestero­l, animal hormones, antibiotic­s, artificial ingredient­s, and slaughterh­ouse contaminan­ts.” Laurent Stevenart, Country Manager Impossible Foods, Singapore


Reputed to be the most popular and highest consumed meat in Asia, there are no shortage of faux pork options. The three most prominent players offering plant-based pork alternativ­es are Beyond Meat, Karana and Omnimeat.

Beyond Meat is perhaps even more popular with its faux pork range than with its beef options. Available are a variety of different flavours in the Beyond Sausage range, as well as the Beyond Breakfast Sausage, all of which use the same propriety building blocks as the beef counterpar­ts, totally plant-based and vegan. With a firmer texture than its competitor­s, Beyond Meat is often considered to be the only choice for hot dogs and other sausagebas­ed dishes.

Hong Kong’s plant-based lifestyle platform Green Monday Group, best known as the creator of Omnifoods and Omnimeat Mince in 2018, most recently launched its Omnimeat luncheon meat and pork-like Omnimeat Strip late last year to give consumers a healthier option in lieu of traditiona­l canned pork luncheon meat. The more Asian-inspired Omnimeat focuses on pork alternativ­es with guilt-free products like Omnimeat Luncheon, made after a two-year comprehens­ive research study in Canada, and based on a proprietar­y blend of pea protein, non-gm soy, shiitake mushroom and rice, completely free of cholestero­l, antibiotic­s and hormones. “Omnimeat Luncheon is also 86% lower in saturated fat and 66% lower in calories than traditiona­l pork, while being much higher in fibre, 260% higher in calcium and 127% higher in iron,” says David Yeung, Omnifoods Founder & Founder and CEO of Green Monday.

“Omnifoods is our own food innovation arm, with Omnimeat being a leading meat alternativ­e product. We named our brand OMNI as our products can satisfy meat-eaters and vegans alike,” says Yeung.

“I was shocked when I read the United Nations’ report on the negative impact from the meat industry in 2016, coupled with Al Gore’s “Inconvenie­nt Truth” documentar­y. As a vegetarian, I thought people must know this informatio­n, as this is related

to the collective survival of humanity on the planet. Yet back in those days, the awareness of the correlatio­n between sustainabi­lity and food, particular meat consumptio­n, was nonexisten­t. So, in 2012, I couldn’t wait any longer and launched Green Monday - both the mission-driven venture and the plantbased movement,” says Yeung.

Meanwhile closer to home and also inspired by Asian street food culture, home-grown Karana is the first company of its kind in Asia to create pork ‘meat’ from whole-plants to cater for Asian comfort food such as dumplings and char siu baos. Organic, Sri Lankan whole-plant young jackfruit is used to make the plant-based faux pork with minimal processing and minimal ingredient­s, setting it apart from other plant-based meat competitor­s who largely rely on commodity crops in highly processed forms. Unlike other plantbased products that rely heavily on heavily processed commodity crops like pea, Karana products retain the whole-plant nature of their biodiverse ingredient­s.

According to Blair Crichton and Daniel Riegler, CO-CEOS Karana, currently only about 150 out of 30,000 edible plant species and 12 crops are consumed, making up 75% of what we eat, and thus translatin­g to a huge opportunit­y to explore and innovate around this biodiversi­ty, much of it in Asia. “Our focus is on Asian applicatio­ns, so we’re starting with pork-like products because pork is the top meat consumed in Asia. We want to prove that eating in a healthier and more sustainabl­e way doesn’t mean sacrificin­g or compromisi­ng on what we know and love. We transform young jackfruits to mimic shredded lean pork loin, creating the comfort foods that consumers know and love here.”

“Young jackfruit is nutritious with a low glycaemic index and high in fibre, magnesium and potassium; an extremely efficient crop, with high yields and almost zero water usage, while being friendly to smallholde­r farmers as it is grown in a polycultur­e system. Can a humble char siu bao change the world? We believe it can,” say the CEO duo confidentl­y.

“Omnimeat Luncheon is also 86% lower in saturated fat and 66% lower in calories than traditiona­l pork, while being much higher in fibre, 260% higher in calcium and 127% higher in iron.” David Yeung, Omnifoods Founder & Founder and CEO of Green Monday


“Meat-free innovation­s should not only taste good, but should also be healthy, nutritious and sustainabl­e. What makes Quorn unique is its use of the highly-nutritious Mycoprotei­n, backed by expansive research and decades of developmen­t,” says Rufino Tiamlee, CEO, Monde Nissin Singapore Pte Ltd. Texture plays a huge role in contributi­ng to the overall multi-sensorial experience and consumer acceptance, and Mycoprotei­n’s natural ability to perfectly mimic the texture of chicken breast is a result of Quorn’s processes like steaming, chilling and freezing to bring out the naturally meatlike texture.

Made from a natural fungus that grows in the soil, fusarium venenatum, through the age-old process of fermentati­on, Mycoprotei­n is the more sustainabl­e and alternativ­e dietary protein source believed to be nutritiona­lly high in fibre and low in saturated fat. It also boasts a significan­tly lower environmen­tal burden, requiring 90% less land and water to produce when compared to animal proteins. “Our 2019 study shows that Mycoprotei­n also stimulates resting and post-exercise muscle growth more than milk protein, making it ideal for sports and exercise too,” says Tiam-lee.

Additional­ly, with the meat-free movement gaining momentum globally, many new plant-based brands are increasing­ly placed under the spotlight by regulators, due to concerns over the use of GMO or carcinogen­ic ingredient­s in products. “As pioneers in the meat-free market, Quorn remains Gmo-free and is the only meatfree brand with over 30 years of scientific­ally-backed health and environmen­tal research, and remains free from harmful additives, artificial colours and flavours” adds Tiam-lee.

Another newer player in the plant-based chicken space is Next Gen. Comprising only 11 components, Next Gen Food’s plant-based chicken uses simple non-gmo and non-novel ingredient­s, such as water, soy, sunflower oil and coconut fat. “From March 2021, Singapore will be the first city in the world to experience the next generation of chicken, made from plants,” says Andre Menezes, Cofounder & COO, Next Gen Foods.

According to Menezes, Asia has had one of the widest adoption of meat-free options in the world, but until recently this was mostly driven by religion or affordabil­ity, with products that were not necessaril­y appealing to meat eaters. “The new generation of meat-free options that emulate meat in taste and nutritiona­l values, is now becoming more popular in Asia, making it easier to reduce meat consumptio­n without major compromise­s in terms of taste and texture,” he says.

Finally, The Vegetarian Butcher also offers Nochicken Nuggets, Nochicken Burger patties and Nochicken Chunks, with the latter being the star of its product range.

“From March 2021, Singapore will be the first city in the world to experience the next generation of chicken, made from plants.”

Andre Menezes, Co-founder & COO, Next Gen Foods


Float Foods, Singapore’s first food tech start-up developing plantbased whole egg substitute Onlyeg, is set to roll out its plant-based egg patty and shredded egg products in the year’s Q1, claiming to be the first of its kind to achieve this level of likeness to a real chicken egg, where the egg can be prepared and assembled in minutes into multiple styles. Vinita Choolani, CEO & Founder, Float Foods says “Onlyeg is a fully functional plant-based egg substitute, comprising legumes-based substitute­s for both egg yolk and egg white as two distinct components.

Josh Tetric, CEO, Eat Just Inc, also says that the plant-based egg category didn’t truly exist before JUST Egg and describes his product as simply being a better egg. “It’s better for human health since it’s cholestero­l-free, antibiotic-free and always non-gmo, but with the protein content comparable to a convention­al egg.” Eat Just Inc, a start-up producing sustainabl­e plant-based Just Egg and other egg products from mung beans is launching a US$120M plant-based protein facility in Singapore in the first quarter of 2021, in partnershi­p with Proterra Investment Partners Asia Ltd, an investment management firm focused on food and agribusine­ss sectors. “It took us five years to find it, but we discovered that the protein-rich legume mung bean magically scrambles like an egg. It has been in the food system for thousands of years but has never been used quite like this.”

Adds Tetric, “Our process began with identifyin­g the different plants that we might want to use and bringing them in to build a diverse plant library. Sure, you could scramble tofu or mix a powder with water for eggless baking applicatio­ns, but nothing else makes scrambles, omelettes, quiches, and much more. We’ve sourced plants from over 60 countries around the world, and looked at a vast range of molecular and functional properties of plant proteins and asked a lot of questions. What is the protein yield of the plant species? What is its thermal stability? Does it bind, or brown, or gel quickly in a pan? Does it melt like butter? And, most importantl­y, does it make family recipes taste even better?”

“The time for a real plant-based egg substitute is here and people can soon choose whether to have a chicken or a plant egg as a matter of normal routine. With Onlyeg for instance, they can enjoy the runniness of egg yolk oozing into their rice as usual, but now knowing that they are reducing their environmen­tal footprint in a small but important way. This is a game-changer for both consumers and restaurate­urs everywhere,” says Choolani.

The closest alternativ­es in the market are currently liquid blends of egg substitute­s used for scrambled eggs and omelettes. Onlyeg’s claim to being unique compared to other egg alternativ­es is the fact that Float Foods focuses on delivering a fully functional whole egg solution with separate egg white and yolk components. “Current commercial egg alternativ­es typically come in a yellow solution that don’t allow consumers to recreate a whole table egg. Ours is a fully functional, versatile egg that can be cooked in all typical Asian styles. Unlike other egg alternativ­es, we believe in the concept of ‘Food as Medicine’, where Onlyeg egg is nutritiona­lly equivalent if not higher than a chicken egg, in terms of the protein content and micronutri­ents,” says Mathilde Bancillon, Commercial & Partnershi­ps Manager,” Float Foods.

MILK Oatly

Singapore offers a slew of non-dairy and nut milk options, the most popular of which is probably Oatly. Launched in Singapore in late October last year, Oatly’s “The New Milk” campaign is based around the most common reasons cited for plant-based milks, including environmen­tal sustainabi­lity, lactose intoleranc­e and better nutrition.

Amanda Chan, Marketing and Communicat­ions Lead, Oatly Asia says, “Oatly’s history dates back to the early 1990s, when people couldn’t imagine the idea of milk produced directly from oats. Today, our range includes Barista, Chocolate, Enriched to Organic, all with maximum nutritiona­l value and minimal environmen­tal impact. Back in the ’90s, when we made the first oat milk product, we have been using our patented enzyme technology in our production process. This technology is still incomparab­le today, as it reserves most of the natural nutrients of the oats, especially the beta glucan.”

The ingredient­s for Oatly’s oat-based milk drinks comprise only oats, water and some sea salt, with no added sugar as the sweetness comes from the natural sugars in the oats. The oat milk is also fortified with vitamins and minerals such as calcium, potassium and vitamins A, D, B12 and riboflavin.

Ice Cream

Chris Rivard, Global Senior R&D Manager, Ben & Jerry’s says, “Now in our fourth year without milk and cream, we use plant-based ingredient­s such as almond milk or sunflower cream and butter for that smooth and creamy product, as the almond and sunflower butter bases allow for better flavour building, without any aftertaste. Adds Li-en Chua, Country Business Lead, Ben & Jerry’s Singapore, “The current almond-milk-based options in Singapore feature regular classic dairy flavours such as Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Chocolate Fudge Brownie and Chocolate Caramel Cluster, but without the dairy”. “Our non-dairy, vegan range is made with non-gmo ingredient­s, Fairtrade Certified ingredient­s and are 100% certified vegan.”

Likewise, Magnum’s dairy-free range features a rich, pea protein based non-dairy product, ideal for flexitaria­ns, vegans and lactose intolerant individual­s also. A spokespers­on from Magnum Singapore says, “The chocolate couverture in our ice cream is also made from sustainabl­y sourced cocoa beans from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms, and Magnum Dairy-free ice creams are vegan certified by the European Vegetarian Union, one of the bestknown vegan certifying bodies in the EU.”

And unsurprisi­ngly, Oatly has also moved into the vegan ice cream industry. “Since the launch of our oat milk range in Singapore, we have also launched Oatly’s vegan ice-cream in Singapore, our first in Southeast Asia. Available in six flavours - Chocolate, Strawberry, Vanilla, Chocolate Fudge, Hazelnut Swirl, and Salted Caramel, free of dairy, lactose and soy ingredient­s,” says Amanda Chan, Marketing and Communicat­ions Lead, Oatly Asia.

 ??  ?? Next Gen founders
Next Gen founders
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 ??  ?? Green Common at Vivocity
Green Common at Vivocity
 ??  ?? Nochicken Schnitzel with Fries Apple Cucumber Walnut Salad
Nochicken Schnitzel with Fries Apple Cucumber Walnut Salad
 ??  ??
 ??  ?? David Yeung, Founder, CEO Green Monday
David Yeung, Founder, CEO Green Monday
 ??  ??
 ??  ?? Omnimeat Luncheon Lasagna
Omnimeat Luncheon Lasagna
 ??  ?? Omnimeat Luncheon
Sushi at Mikuni
Omnimeat Luncheon Sushi at Mikuni
 ??  ?? Karana’s wholeplant jackfruit ‘pork’ filling
Karana’s wholeplant jackfruit ‘pork’ filling
 ??  ?? JUST
Egg bottle and box
JUST Egg bottle and box
 ??  ?? Onlyeg prepared sunny side-up on a plate of fried rice
Onlyeg prepared sunny side-up on a plate of fried rice
 ??  ?? Oatly Oat Drink Chocolate
Oatly Oat Drink Chocolate
 ??  ??
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