Century Pacific is best known for its canned food products such as Century Tuna and 555, but recently made its first foray into the plant-based space with new brand unMEAT at the end of last year.
“We started working on this since even before the pandemic, as our global team saw a lot of momentum for this, and we’ve been rolling unMEAT out via parallel B2B and B2C strategies since Q4 last year,” Century Pacific CPFI & Global Brands COO Greg Banzon told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“In B2B, we’ve put this out via a burger offering in Shakey’s menus, as Shakey’s is a sister company of ours, and we’re also focusing on working with medium to small players looking to offer plant-based dishes to be more competitive, as it can be hard for these to get priority from other suppliers if they don’t want to order large quantities.
“But of course foodservice has faced quite a few challenges since COVID-19 hit, so we decided on a balanced approach to tackle both B2B and B2C in parallel.
“So currently from a B2C perspective we’re also in larger retail outlets and leading supermarkets, as well as online platforms such as Shopee and Lazada. The idea is to really land and gain prominence is both spaces simultaneously.”
Apart from its local Philippines launch, Century Pacific also has its eye on various international markets and is leveraging its current network for canned products to get unMEAT out there.
“Century Pacific is in 80 countries worldwide with our tuna and sardines and meat, and this footprint allows us a doorway into many markets. We’ve sent unMEAT to many key contacts, and have seen very strong interest from ASEAN, the Middle East, Australia, the EU, and North America,” said Banzon.
“I think the Middle East in particular is likely going to be a shoo-in for this product due to our strong presence there – our tuna is amongst the Top 3 brands in the region, and this will also propel unMEAT from a related brand angle.
“After that, I believe that the Singapore and Australian markets will be next for us, then the US, Canada and western European countries.”
Apart from burger patties, unMEAT also has sausages, ground meat and nuggets, all of which are sold in 200g packs.
Simple and affordable
Century Pacific is also attempting to make the unMEAT brand as ‘simple and affordable’ as possible to appeal to mass consumers, and Banzon said that it has almost reached price parity in certain markets.
“In markets which rely on meat imports, we can achieve that promise of being the same price as regular meat right now, but not yet in meat-manufacturing markets,” he said.
“The retail price of two burger patties is about US$2.30 – other plant-based meat products are selling this for US$8 or US$9, and in the US a standard pack of burger patties is about US$2.99 though we still have to factor shipping costs and so on, but in essence, unMEAT is priced competitively, and we believe we can come close.
“It also helps that Century Pacific has a long manufacturing heritage, so we have a clear understanding of production at a cost-efficient level in addition to a clear understanding of different protein types. We are also already accredited for most markets from the EU to US and are halal, kosher and all that so no extra costs are needed to get all of that done.”
In terms of simplicity, Banzon said that this was what unMEAT wanted to make its point of differentiation from other plant-based brands too.
“We have purposefully worked with simple ingredients, so consumers can look at the list and comfortably understand everything on it – I’d say our list is half the length of others’ and the names are all simple with nothing people can’t pronounce or understand,” he said.
Moving forward, the team will also be looking beyond this range of more international offerings to create more local and regional options.
“We started with international products and especially burgers as that’s really the plant-based food product of consequence – the plant-based patty must taste the same to a regular burger patty and it’s the way consumers discover plant-based foods,” said Banzon.
“But moving forward, we want to look at more ethnic options, so some plans we have ongoing are local Philippines plant-based products, so things like longganisa (a local breakfast sausage) or tocino (pork cutlets).
“There are also regional Asian items in motion, such as siu mai and spring rolls; and in foodservice we want to work on applications with our partners – so for instance, we’re trying to create a 100% plant-based pizza from meat to cheese together with Shakey’s.”