Local dishes: Next Meats jumps on plant-based trend in Japan with yakiniku and gyudon products

By Guan Yu Lim contact

- Last updated on GMT

Left to right: Next Meats' Gyudon (beef bowl) and Yakiniku (grilled meat) ©Next Meats
Left to right: Next Meats' Gyudon (beef bowl) and Yakiniku (grilled meat) ©Next Meats

Related tags: Japan, plant based, Meat

Japanese start-up Next Meats is tapping the country’s growing plant-based food trend with its yakiniku (grilled meat) and gyudon (beef bowl) products.

Next Meats was established in June this year to develop and sell plant-based meat products as a solution to the global food crisis.

Yuya Makino, PR and marketing director, said: “Our mission is to pave the world’s future with fake meats. In doing so, we hope to lessen the amount of meat being produced, thus saving the environment little by little​.”

The plant-based food trend was largely imported from the West, and the current market in Japan is relatively small.

Players in Japan include Nippon Ham, Otsuka Foods, Itoham Foods and Marukome.

Makino told FoodNavigator-Asia​ the plant-based trend seemed to gain more traction this year. It could be possibly led by consumers seeking safer and healthier alternatives in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Euromonitor International reported that the meat substitute market in the Asia-Pacific region was worth US$15.3bn in 2019, up 4.75% from the previous year. But the pandemic has accelerated that growth, with the market forecast to expand 11.6% to US$17.1bn in 2020.

At the beginning of this year, exposure via television and news articles has been increasing, supermarkets have started selling more plant-based meat products, plant-based meat restaurants have started increasing, and existing restaurants have started adding plant-based meat products to their menus,​” Makino said.

There are not many plant-based meat companies in Japan. There are several start-up companies and some major food companies starting to enter the market, but they are just getting their feet wet in the industry​.”

First in the world

For Next Meats, it is positioning itself as an alternative to local dishes such as yakiniku and gyudon, instead of western dishes of sausages and patties.

There is no company that sells plant-based Yakiniku and Gyudon around the world, which would mean that our company would be the first to sell them. Also, Yakiniku and Gyudon are very popular and common in Japan​,” Makino said.

Its plant-based products are made with soybeans and green peas.

Makino told us texture was the firm’s biggest challenge during formulation. “We are very particular with the texture and taste of our products. We often go through more than 100 tests before getting it right​.”

In most of our products, the ingredients get compressed twice, thus allowing the texture to become what it is​.”

The firm is constantly doing product development to improve its formulation, with the improved Gyudon 1.2 product launched at the end of September.

Other products include Yakiniku Karubi 1.0 (boneless short rib) and Yakiniku Harami 1.0 (fried skirt steak) which were launched in August.

The firm has also ventured into the burger space with its Burger 1.2 on the crowdfunding website Makuake.

The funds will be used for its product development. The Burger 1.2 had raised about JPY1.27m (US$12,000), exceeded its goal of JPY300,000 (US$2,800).

Currently, its products are sold on its own websites, as well as e-commerce sites Amazon and Rakuten. There are plans to enter food service in the future too.  

According to Makino, its plant-based meat products are currently 20 to 30% more expensive than typical meat products due to its small production. “We hope to lower these prices to become that of normal meat products in the future by lowering the cost of technology and our ingredients​.”

The company is also working on developing new products.

The team of eight hopes to expand into China and Europe in the future should the demand be there.

Next Meat’s manufacturing facilities are located in the Aichi and Iwate Prefectures in Japan.


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