Hong Kong-based Green Monday and its plant-based product development arm OmniFoods launched three plant-based meat products into the Malaysian retail market last month under its OmniMeat brand, and also opened its first ASEAN plant-based retail store and eatery Green Common in Singapore.
According to Green Monday Founder and CEO David Yeung, one of the reasons for the firm’s focus in this area is due to the rapidly rising trend for plant-based eating in both markets.
“Singapore and Malaysia are very different markets but [both] are actively adapting to the conscious eating trend – Singapore [in particular] is very much at the forefront of the global food revolution, specifically with their government championing this shift,” Yeung told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“In Malaysia, an increasing number of consumers are embracing plant-based food [although] due to cultural habits and religious beliefs, consumers in Malaysia have a different food consumption pattern – but now all such dietary requirements can be fulfilled.”
One particular characteristic for food products to garner mass appeal in Malaysia, a Muslim-majority country, is for these to be halal. On this front, OmniMeat has obtained halal certifications for all its products launched in both Malaysia and Singapore.
In addition, OmniFoods’ meat analogue products were originally marketed under the OmniPork brand but has since rebranded to OmniMeat.
“We have introduced three proprietary plant-based products - OmniMeat Mince, OmniMeat Luncheon and OmniMeat Strip in Malaysia recently, and the same products [have also been] available in Singaporean retail outlets since last year,” said Yeung.
“These products are easily available for consumers to purchase in [selected mainstream] and retailers such as AEON, Jaya Grocer and Village Grocer in Malaysia, and NTUC Fairprice and via online platform RedMart in Singapore.”
The firm has also placed a great deal of focus on the versatility of these products – according to Yeung, these were created based on Asian eating culture, and are meant to be ‘hassle-free’ and ‘easily incorporated’ into everyday dishes.
“[For instance], OmniMeat Mince [is meant to] provide both home cooks and professionals with a hassle-free plant-based alternative ingredient that is versatile and suitable for Asian cuisine dishes,” he said.
“Meat strips on the other hand are a very widely used ingredient across the region’s cuisines, which is why we created OmniMeat Strip [to be] highly-adaptable and easily incorporated in almost any traditional meat-based dish.”
All three products launched in Singapore and Malaysia are made with ingredients such as pea, non-GMO soy, shiitake mushroom, beetroot and so on.
When trying to sell plant-based foods – or any other type of food – in Asia, it is well-known that cost and pricing is extremely crucial to gaining mass appeal, even more so in South East Asia where many developing economies are located.
Yeung told us that Green Monday is aware of this fact, and thus in the process of looking for ways to lower its product cost and pricing.
“As we are already building our production lines, we see lots of room for our cost to come down, which we surely will transfer the savings to end-consumers,” he said.
“We have already reduced the retail price of OmniMeat by 25% since we launched two years ago, and we still see room for price reduction as we continue to grow.”
At present, the OmniMeat products in Singapore and Malaysia are selling at prices that are still higher than those of animal-based products, but lower than many of its competitors like Beyond Meat. OmniMeat Mince goes for RM19.90 (US$4.89) / SGD7.50 (US$5.61), OmniMeat Luncheon for RM23.90 (US$5.87) / SGD9.35 (US$6.99), and OmniMeat Strip for RM15.90 (US$3.91) /SGD7.55 (US$5.65).
Another major concept in play here is that of convenience, a key driver behind Yeung’s decision to set up a Green Common outlet in Singapore.
“Green Common is designed as a one-stop [destination] to make eating sustainably more accessible to Singaporeans,” he said.
“We offer the largest array of market-leading plant-based alternative brands in Singapore [with] market-leading products from all around the world such as Califia Farms from the US, Heura Foods from Spain, Unlimeat from South Korea and [well-known names such as] Beyond Meat and Just Egg too.
“The OmniEat range of vegan-friendly, preservative-free and MSG-free frozen ready-to-eat meals is also making its debut in Green Common Singapore. These are prepared using ultra-low temperature ‘Flash Freezing’ technology to retain natural flavours and textures while minimizing nutrient loss.
“[These RTE meals] are designed for guilt-free convenience, and the range features Asian foods such as [gyoza, Siu Mai and Crystal Dumplings].”
Multi-faceted approach required
When asked about plans for overcoming major challenges that the plant-based industry is facing in the ASEAN region such as health concerns and cultural preference for meat consumption, Yeung said that the key here is to take a multi-faced approach and boost innovation.
“[In general, the] awareness in Asia regarding meat consumption and sustainability is still relatively low in comparison to the Western countries [so] it will take time and efforts from educators, investors, entrepreneurs, governments, corporates and pretty much all stakeholders to move the needle,” he said.
“[In the ASEAN region too], it will need to be a multi-pronged strategy - no single-dimension effort will get the job done, [so] cross-sector collaboration will be crucial.
“Food innovation also is a must [as] no changes will happen unless we provide a better experience and options to consumers.”
That said, he remains hopeful that the industry is moving in the right direction, and that ‘mega change’ will take place within five years.
“[Plant-based] is a global macro trend, so I foresee mega change taking place in Asia within the next five years,” he said.
“[Just take] the case of Hong Kong where we first started - it is hard to believe just five years ago the availability and awareness of plant-based were glaringly missing, and now the plant-based and flexitarian lifestyle is resonating with many consumers.”
OmniMeat is available in over 20 markets worldwide, including China, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Korea, Thailand, UK, the USA and more.