Seed fund secured: WTH Foods to set up Philippines R&D plant-based facility and gears up for SEA expansion
The company, which is registered in the Philippines and Singapore, currently has a presence in the former, with plant-based products such as ground meat and corned beef on e-commerce and specialty grocers.
The firm is also looking to set up an R&D facility in the later part of 2022 in Singapore.
The facilities will experiment with more plant-based ingredients, indigenous crops, flavour development as well as explore high moisture extrusion method for production.
Currently, its products are made using the dry textured vegetable protein (TVP) method. The high moisture extrusion method is known to be a better method for enhancing the texture of plant-based meat products.
“Many people love the taste of meat but are looking for healthier and more sustainable options. At WTH Foods, we are developing plant alternatives for meat lovers, the same texture and taste of their favourite dishes but with the added health and sustainability benefits," said Stephen Co, co-founder & CEO of WTH Foods.
The company makes plant-based versions of processed meat products from local and sustainable ingredients such as microalgae, mung beans, jackfruit and seaweeds.
The firm recently raised US$1.2 million in a seed funding round from investors including Big Idea Ventures, and Henry Soesanto who is CEO of Monde Nissin.
Co said: “This funding will help us accelerate the development of these products and reach more markets across South East Asia and around the world so people can enjoy popular dishes guilt-free.”
The firm had initially planned to enter Singapore last year, but the pandemic postponed the launch to 2022.
Following this, other markets in the region such as Thailand and Indonesia are also in sights.
“WTH Foods has an offering that we believe will be very attractive to the Asian consumers, especially the Filipino diaspora – as the products combine healthy plant-based alternatives with the convenience of ready-made meals,” added Christian Cadeo, managing partner Asia at Big Idea Ventures.
The company hopes to eventually tap the more than two million Filipinos expats located in South East Asia as brand ambassadors for WTH.
New business model
According to Co, it is working on a new business model that is different from typical plant-based companies.
“One of the challenges with plant-based is the preparation, customers like it when foods are freshly prepared and ready to eat. Plant-based foods sold in retail such as supermarkets are usually frozen and not ready-to-eat. Food service like restaurants and hotels may not be feasible in terms of affordability and availability for the average consumer,” he told FoodNavigator-Asia.
To fill this unmet need, the company is launching its own food kiosk next year in the Philippines, offering plant-based ready to eat products. Co said food kiosks are common in the Philippines especially in high foot traffic areas, so this channel would allow mainstream consumers to get onboard.
Currently in the Philippines, WTH uses contract manufacturers and intends to use the same model when expanding into South East Asia.
New product range
WTH is set to launch a new line of products next year, developed under the brand Umani, and will feature sausages and luncheon meat made with microalgae and other legumes.
Umani products will be launched in Singapore as well, into food service first.
WTH is short for Worth The Health.