Unlike other research which broadly cover the health impact of plant-based diets, this study is the first of its kind focusing on novel plant-based meats.
The study will assess the nutritional and health impact of replacing traditional animal protein with plant-based protein, and whether different ethnic groups respond differently to these plant-based proteins.
As these novel foods become more commonplace, consumer education and information about nutrition also needs to keep up.
Professor Christiani Jeyakumar Henry, senior advisor at SIFBI and principal investigator for the study said: “As Asian consumers become more educated and affluent, and hence demand more plant-based proteins, many food and nutrition companies are responding by developing alternative protein food products.
“Human nutrition is a complex field, and we need more studies that look holistically at the nutritional impact of these food products over time, to inform the food industry of its potential benefits or the need for reformulation.”
Plant-based proteins have been marketed to reduce risk factors for chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.
Professor Henry told FoodNavigator-Asia: "What this study aims to do is to determine the nutritional impact of replacing meat and animal-based products with alternative proteins, within a regular Singaporean diet. Since we are privileged to have three ethnicities in Singapore, it’s an ideal place to execute such a study,
“The study will be a nutrition-focused study with elements of computer modelling and clinical human trials. This will be the first study of its kind here in Asia. SIFBI is pleased to design and execute this study in Singapore with the support of Pinduoduo.”
SIFBI is a new research institute established last year under the Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), focusing on the food innovation ecosystem.
Pinduoduo will work with the SIFBI researchers to set the research direction. This project is part of its broader objective to safeguard the quality and safety of the food bought by the 824 million consumers who shop on its platform as of March 2021.
The company sold more than US$40 billion worth of agricultural products in China through its marketplace last year.
Xin Yi Lim, executive director of sustainability and agricultural impact at Pinduoduo said: “Pinduoduo has been actively investing in agri and food-tech to help build a more resilient food system that is not only more secure but also more green, and alternative protein is a key area of focus for us.
“We now have over 800 million consumers shopping on our platform, and many of them, particularly our younger consumers, are health-conscious and demonstrating strong interest in alternative protein products. As their trusted go-to platform, we also hope to provide our consumers with more information so that they can make better choices,”
For Pinduoduo, the results of the study could help shape its strategy for both investing in and distributing this new class of food products. It can also help the makers of plant-based meats develop better products for people and planet.
In China, researchers from leading institutions have urged consumers to eat less meat, but only about 15.3% of surveyed respondents indicated that they were willing to do so, according to the 2021 China and Global Food Policy Report.
This research project is the second collaboration between Pinduoduo and SIFBI. Last year, they embarked on a project to develop a more portable and lower-cost test for pesticide residues for agriculture produce, with the aim of improving consumer confidence and food safety.