Zero meat: Japanese firm Otsuka Foods enters alternative protein market

By Tingmin Koe contact

- Last updated on GMT

Otsuka Foods has launched the brand "Zero Meat", which currently consists of burger patties made from soy.
Otsuka Foods has launched the brand "Zero Meat", which currently consists of burger patties made from soy.

Related tags: plant-based meat, Otsuka Foods, Meat substitutes

Otsuka Foods has launched its first line of alternative protein products in Japan, and has pledged that further goods will follow in order to tap into rising consumer demand.

Branded as “Zero Meat”, the products are two frozen-chilled burgers, with “meat” patties made from soy beans.  

One of the products also contain plant-based cheese made from soymilk cream. 

The firm is selling alternative protein products for the first time.

It took about a year to develop the products, a spokeswoman from Otsuka Foods told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

A reason for entering the alternative protein market is because it had noticed more consumers reducing meat intake for health reasons.

“In recent years, meat substitute foods that can be eaten in place of hamburger and sausage have been attracting a lot of attention worldwide,”​ the firm said. 

“A variety of reasons are thought to be behind this trend, including food shortages due to a rapidly rising global population, the size of the environmental impact caused by producing livestock compared to grains, and growing numbers of people becoming vegetarians and vegans for health reasons.”

It intends to introduce more meat substitute products. 

“Under the ‘Zero Meat’ brand, Otsuka Foods plans to continue proposing delicious and healthy eating habits by developing a variety of meat substitute foods, starting with these two hamburger products.”

The products are first sold in convenience stores and supermarkets in the Kanto area.

Otsuka Foods is one of the few Japanese firm to enter the alternative protein industry which is mostly dominated by US firms, including JUST and Impossible Foods.

Partnerships

Some Japanese companies are tapping on the opportunities that the market offers by collaborating with foreign plant-based meat start-ups.

For instance, Mitsui Co had invested in the US plant-based meat start-up Beyond Meat and is responsible for promoting the product in Japan.

At the point of investment, Mitsui explained that since vegan and vegetarian diets were not common in the Japanese diet, the firm thus decided to invest in foreign plant-based meat firms instead.

Nishimoto, a Japanese food wholesaler, is also selling plant-based tuna and eel sushi ​ produced by New York based Ocean Hugger Foods (OHF) – a plant-based seafood firm.

It earlier said it intended to expand OHF’s vegan sushi ingredient sales from JYP$200m to JYP$1.5bn within a few years.

Other than alternative protein and plant-based products, some Japanese firms are also following the footsteps of Western firms in producing lab-grown meat.

An example is Integriculture​ Inc, which claimed that cultured ‘foie gras’ could be commercially launched by 2021.

It went on to raise JPY$300m in a seed funding round led by Real Tech Fund.

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