Internal research by the company also claimed that although there are many high-protein drinks in the Thai market today, these are dairy-based and there are limited plant-based options so far.
In response to this, they pushed out a plant-based matcha-flavoured beverage solution during the show, as a prototype of how beverage companies could create new products of a certain flavour (e.g. matcha) and still keep up with the plant-based trend.
This was a combination of various ingredients, including matcha flavouring, soy protein bases and fibre, in tandem with an emphasis on unique ingredient combinations.
“Plant-based beverages and meat alternatives is the topic that everyone is talking about, both globally and here in Thailand,” ADM Human Nutrition General Manager South East Asia Dirk Oyen told FoodNavigator-Asia at the recent Fi Asia Thailand 2019 show in Bangkok.
“Innovation in this [plant-based] space must be beyond the use of just new individual ingredients –combinations and recipes to make unique products are now more important to appeal to consumers today.
“Market research has shown that taste and texture are the major hindrance factors preventing consumers from making plant-based purchases, and our innovations aim to overcome these,” he added.
“It’s also about indulgence and nutrition, providing fibre and protein in addition to the matcha taste.”
In addition, the company is also looking to expand and innovate in other categories such as carbonated soft drinks in line with current trends.
“What we are seeing a lot of now in soft drinks is the ‘plus’ trend, where people are adding more functionality to these sorts of beverages, so we are also working on this,” said Oyen.
“Drinks like Coca-Cola Plus or Pepsi Special which have fibre added to them, or with reduced sugar along the lines of South East Asian government policies – these are all the next generation of carbonated soft drinks, and there is a lot more innovation to be explored within this sector.”
Flavours and localisation
According to Oyen, protein is considered one of ADM’s legacy ingredients, and ADM Human Nutrition is further expanding this into areas such as flavours and health and wellness.
He added that flavours are ‘a key differentiating ingredient’ in every application, because although this is only one dimension of the product, ‘it characterises the product and makes it unique’.
“Flavours are also very local and very target group subjective. It is important to be mindful of local taste differences,” he said.
“We have a dedicated team in Singapore to support this aspect for South East Asia, and have created localised flavours unique to the region such as durian, pandan, gula melaka and tropical fruits.
“Here, people know the taste of real ripe fruits from the market, which is why we really need local flavourists to understand the environment, make sure these are as realistic as possible and also in tandem with regulatory requirements.”
ADM in APAC
ADM has invested significantly in the Asia Pacific region across the past few years, as evidenced by its establishment of technical innovation centres in Sydney, Singapore and Shanghai, as well as local resources in multiple locations across the region.
“Apart from the innovation centres, we also have presence and resources in Beijing and Guangzhou in China, as well as, Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh in South East Asia,” he said.
“In the future, we are also looking at establishing resources in Indonesia.”