Alt Protein Watch: Thai Union's hemp investment, Yili's plant-based dairy drive, WTH Foods' new Philippines facility and more feature in our round-up

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

Thai Union's hemp investment, Yili's plant-based dairy drive, WTH Foods' new Philippines facility and more feature in this edition of Alt Protein Watch. ©Getty Images
Thai Union's hemp investment, Yili's plant-based dairy drive, WTH Foods' new Philippines facility and more feature in this edition of Alt Protein Watch. ©Getty Images

Related tags alternative protein

Thai Union's hemp investment, Yili's plant-based dairy drive, WTH Foods' new Philippines facility and more feature in this edition of Alt Protein Watch.

Hemp-based future? Thai Union targets alternative protein and supplement opportunities

Global food MNC Thai Union has revealed that it is eyeing several major business opportunities to be found in the hemp and CBD sector, from alternative proteins to supplements.

Thai Union recently invested some THB3bn (US$90.6mn) to acquire a 10% stake in Thai food ingredients company R&B Food Supply, which specialises in various ingredients including natural flavours, colours and hemp extracts, and has since revealed to FoodNavigator-Asia​ that one of its major interests via this investment is in the hemp products space.

“Hemp-based products certainly have potential in Thailand as well as other parts of the world. Being a strong OEM player and operating globally, Thai Union seeks to develop a broad portfolio of alternative protein propositions for our customers [and consumers] wherever they are, and hemp certainly fits in this portfolio,”​ Thai Union Group CFO Ludovic Garnier told us.

With RBF, we are exploring several potential business opportunities to integrate hemp extracts, hemp proteins and CBD extract in several key consumer projects including alternative protein, supplements and other food applications.

Edible ‘dairy’: Yili ramps up focus on cheese and plant-based products in response to growing consumer demand

China dairy giant Yili has revealed that it is ramping up its focus on cheese and plant-based products in addition to its conventional dairy items in response to growing consumer demand.

Yili has grown to become a major dairy market leader in China based on its traditional products such as liquid milk and milk powders, but given the rising interest of Chinese consumers in a wider range of dairy products and also dairy alternatives, the firm is now looking to expand its focus in other areas such as ‘edible’ dairy and plant-based innovations.

The firm's Assistant President Dr Yun Zhanyou highlighted the firm’s rising interest in the plant-based products sector, stressing that they believe this not so much a competing as a complementary sector for the dairy firm.

Yili already has a variety of plant-based products in the market which is has been rolling out slowly over the past few years, including its Plant Selected soy milks and oat milks.

“Yili has a development layout focusing on diversified products [including] plant-based products, which we believe will help us to achieve sustainable growth,”​ said Dr Yun.


Seed fund secured: WTH Foods to set up Philippines R&D plant-based facility and gears up for SEA expansion

Alternative protein company WTH Foods is launching an R&D facility in the Philippines in Q1 2022 to develop products better catered to consumers in the country and the wider South East Asia region.

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.

“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.

‘Shackles off’: Japan lays out plant-based labelling rules for meat, dairy, egg and seafood alternatives

Japan has laid out regulations for the labelling of plant-based products, with observers suggesting they are industry-friendly and should not pose problems for brands.

The plant-based industry in Japan has been seeing quite some growth in recent years, with most progress being seen in restaurants experimenting with new menus, bigger conventional meat product manufacturers such as Nippon Ham and Ito Ham launching plant-based alternatives, as well as a few dedicated firms such as NEXT Meats having come into the picture.

However, the government appears unsatisfied with the industry’s rate of progress so far, and has thus implemented new labelling rules to govern the plant-based sector in hopes that this will propel its growth.

“The fact that Japan has until now not discussed the food labelling [of plant-based foods] has been a shackle for corporate business development,”​ Kono Taro, Public Relations Chief of Japan’s ruling faction the Liberal Democratic Party announced in a recent press conference.

“The plant-based market is expected to reach about US$140bn in sales by 2029, [so Japan needs] to take the shackles off. This is why we have created a Q&A document regarding the labelling rules of plant-based foods for all relevant companies.”

Bug nutrition boost: South Korea adds locusts to approved edible insects list in alternative protein drive

South Korea has made locusts the nation’s tenth approved edible insect, as well as publishing a new set of guidelines for the manufacturing of relevant products.

South Korea has arguably one of the most advanced edible insect industries in the Asia Pacific region, particularly in terms of industry organisation as it has various legislations and policies in place governing the development of the sector.

Amongst these include the ‘Third Comprehensive Plan For Nurturing The Insects and Sericulture Industry’ published earlier this year, as well as the ‘Insect Industry Promotion Support Project’ launched last year aimed at advancing the industrialisation and business aspects of the sector.

In line with these, the South Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) and Rural Development Administration (RDA) has recently unveiled the country’s latest addition to the nation’s approved edible insects list – the much-dreaded locust (Locusta migratoria​) which is also known as Pulmuchi in the country.

“Pulmuchi are physiologically similar to grasshoppers, which have already been approved in Korea as an edible insect, [and] is also double the size and breeds twice as quickly, making for even better productivity,”​ MFDS said via a formal statement.

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