Nine nuts beverage: Chinese firm Howbetter seeks entry in Western’s plant-based drinks markets

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

China firm Jiangsu Howbetter Food has made a prototype of beverage made of nine different nuts. ©Jiangsu Howbetter Food
China firm Jiangsu Howbetter Food has made a prototype of beverage made of nine different nuts. ©Jiangsu Howbetter Food

Related tags Texture plant-based protein Beverages

Chinese firm Jiangsu Howbetter Food has launched a new plant-based beverage prototype made from nine different nuts and is keen to introduce its expertise to the West.

The firm specialises in food texture and premix technology for dairy, beverage, bakery, ice-cream.

Made with peanut, walnut, almond, hazelnut, pine nut, cashew nut, pecan, Australian macadamia nuts, and Hawaiian macadamia nuts, the firm showcased the prototype of its nine nuts plant protein beverage during the recent Food Ingredients China exhibition. 

Speaking to FoodNavigator-Asia ​during the exhibition, general manager Spring Li said it took the team about half a year to develop the product, including selecting the types of nuts, considering the roasting process, harmonising the flavours and texture, and ensuring the stability of the product.

Into its 21st​ year of operation, the firm now has ambition to introduce its expertise in plant-based beverage to the West. Currently, the domestic market is its biggest market at 70%, while South East Asia and South Africa make up the bulk of its export markets.

On its entry into the US, Li said that the firm was already in talks with an American dealer to bring its stabiliser for plant-based protein beverages into the country.

“China should be considered the best when it comes to producing plant-based protein beverages given our long history and expertise in this area. In China, it is common to see plant-based beverages made from soybean, walnut, and almond,”​ Li said.

“The US market may be the familiar with nuts products, however, it is mainly on the original nuts products and not so much on other types of applications. That is why we thought we could bring our expertise in this area to the West since there is so much interest in plant-based products now.”

On the firm’s nine nuts plant-based protein beverage, she stressed that no fragrances were added, and the flavours and nutritional input purely came from the blend of nuts.

Working with end-product manufacturers, the firm hopes to target this particular product at the vegan consumers, male consumers who prefer plant-based beverage for protein intake instead of milk, and consumers in their 20s, since they are more interested in novel flavours.

Make it functional

Besides booming interest in plant-based protein beverages, taste, function, and natural continue to triumph in the Chinese market, according to Li’s observation.

The firm is therefore on a mission to develop functional ingredients to alleviate common ailments.

“30% of the Chinese population has stomach or digestive problems and there is the issue of excessive exposure to blue light from computer and mobile screen. As such, there is scope for us to include functional ingredients beneficial to health in dairy products,”​ Li said.

She gave the example of adding fermented soybean protein powder into milk to aid in digestive health, a concept which the firm came out with last year. In this case, there is the need to add stabiliser since the protein powder is insoluble in water.

As for eye health, she said blueberries or lutein could be added into milk to make it a functional product.

“In fact, milk is a very good medium for adding functional ingredients since consumers already know that it is a good source of nutrition, our job is to ensure that the functional ingredients can harmonise well with the texture and quality of milk,”​ she added.

On the other hand, she revealed that consumers’ interest in health and natural ingredients such as oats was booming, with sales growing by nearly ten-fold in the past two years.

She explained that oats were highly popular for the high dietary fibre and protein contents, which made them good candidates for diet replacement meals, ready-to-eat meals, energy bar, and yogurt toppings.

“Nuts” about patent

Adding to its expertise on nut-based products, the firm has applied for a patent for its technology in preventing the oxidation of nuts and thus, prolonging its shelf life.

Li explained that the technology involve the making of a protective layer over the nuts, with this, the nuts would be separated from air and could help extend the shelf life by twice the amount of the original shelf life period. At the same time, no man-made additives is added.

Other than making into beverages, nuts could also be chopped into fine pieces and added into beverages for crunchiness.

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