Alt Protein Watch: China's cultivated products growth, expert plant-based panel insights, investment tips and more feature in our round-up

By Pearly Neo

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China's cultivated products growth, expert plant-based panel insights, investment tips and more feature in this edition of Alt Protein Watch. ©Getty Images
China's cultivated products growth, expert plant-based panel insights, investment tips and more feature in this edition of Alt Protein Watch. ©Getty Images

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China's cultivated products growth, expert plant-based panel insights, investment tips and more feature in this edition of Alt Protein Watch.

China cultivated products optimism: Industry growth likely to ‘speed-up’ regulatory approvals – national working group

The rapidly growing number of food firms emerging in the cultivated products space in China, along with imminent product launches, is expected to speed-up the regulatory process in the country, according to the national working group.

The cultivated products sector is young in China, but the swiftly growing interest and number of firms getting involved is likely to speed up the policy process once understanding is complete, according to the working group heading the charge in China.

“Since 2019, there have been more and more firms getting interested in the cellular agriculture and cultivated products scene in China, so much so that there are even some local startups in the country now,”​ Ryan Xue, Deputy Secretary General of the Advisory Committee on Nutrition Guidance (ACNG) of the China National Food Industry Association and one of the leaders of the International New Protein Working Group told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

Plant-based innovation in Asia: Localisation, health, taste and affordability top drivers of industry growth and evolution – Growth Asia panel

Product localisation, health, taste and affordability have been identified to be amongst the top drivers behind rapid innovation and sector growth for the plant-based industry in Asia, but sustainability must also not be forgotten as its importance continues to grow in the region.

These were the conclusions reached by the expert panellists at the recent Plant-Based Innovation session of our Growth Asia Interactive Broadcast Series 2021, organised by FoodNavigator-Asia​​ and NutraIngredients-Asia​. 

Because the new generation of plant-based products largely started in the west, most products available today are also western-oriented from burgers to sausages to nuggets – but in order to make inroads in Asia, it is imperative for firms to localize according to local cuisines, said the panel.

“The plant-based trend may have started in the west but the fact is that people like to feel at home when they eat – so although products such as burgers will always have a place, we believe that plant-based Asian food applications are what will play a pivotal role for the industry moving forward,”​ Thai Union Global Innovation Centre Director Dr Tunyawat Kasemsuwan told the floor.

Cultivated product funding: Ex- Beyond and Impossible Foods VC boss on what helps secure investment

Cultivated product firms with pioneering technology, a wide geographical focus and a strategy involving both short- and long-term revenue gains hold an advantage in terms of securing investments, according to ex-Beyond and Impossible Foods VC fund MD.

According to Lever VC Managing Partner Nick Cooney, the fund recently grew to around US$55mn as of time of publishing, and of its multiple recent investments, four have been based in Asia, three of which are cultivated product firms.

“We led the pre-seed funding round for Singapore-based TurtleTree Labs which is the world leader for cultivated dairy, for Avant which is the leading cultivated seafood firm in greater China and most recently for CellX which is the first cultivated meat start-up in China and just entered the market last summer,”​ Cooney told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

“We provide value to the firms in our portfolio in a variety of ways from fundraising to branding and publicity to general got-to-market strategy. For cultivated product firms, the brand strategy is particularly important at this point as they don’t have products yet and are still in the R&D phase, but there is a lot of value to building their brand and getting their names out there in the interim.”

Premium for plant-based: How a higher value yet minimal processing strategy enables Fable Foods to achieve price parity

Australia-based plant-based firm Fable Foods says a relentless focuses on greater premiumisation and minimal processing for its shiitake mushroom-based products are enabling it to maintain price parity with conventional meat items.

Fable Foods is already present in most Australian major retail supermarkets from Woolworths to Coles to Harris Farms, and the firm’s CEO and Co-Founder Michael Fox believes that its minimal processing and approach of targeting more premium products is what has helped put it on a level playing ground with similar products made of conventional meat.

“Our approach so far has been to target the more premium products such as slow-cooked meats like braised beef and pulled pork, which has helped us reach price parity faster,”​ fox told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

‘Follow, not lead’: China likely to be world’s largest cultivated meat consumer – but long, challenging journey ahead

China looks likely to be the world’s largest consumer market of cultivated meat due its population size and government support, but a long, arduous journey lies ahead before this becomes a reality, according to an industry expert.

It is a well-known fact that China’s immense population means that it is a major meat consuming country now and will continue to be in the future, bringing along struggles to meet local meat demands - prompting the government’s openness to cultivated meat.

“[China] suffers from food instability [with its] meat supply highly vulnerable to diseases, [as has been seen] with COVID-19 which is only the latest in many food-related diseases to hit it, from SARS to ASF which made pork prices soar 70% back in 2017,”​ investment firm Brinc’s Senior Advisor Mattan Lurie told the audience at the recent Cellular Agriculture: Asia Summit 2021.

“This is in addition to other challenges such as a heavy reliance on imported meat thus facing unreliable prices including due to trade wars, and limited cold chain logistics.

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