V Foods is best known for its V Farm brand of corn products, particularly its pioneering vacuum-packed corn-on-the-cob which is sold at 7-11 convenience stores all over Thailand and in several other markets, as well as its corn-kernels-in-cup and best-selling prepackaged ready-to-eat water chestnuts.
Until recently, the firm had two major branches – one focusing on corn products, and another on farm products such as chestnuts and dried produce from sweet potatoes to cantaloupe, but recently it decided to launch its own take on the plant-based boom in the country, with what it has called the ‘100% Whole Veggie Bites’ range.
“Although the plant-based trend has really taken off here in Thailand, what we have noticed is that there are still many consumers that have misconceptions of the category, thinking that these are all highly-processed items, so we wanted to create something that was a lot more natural, with just a focus on vegetables, grains and seeds,” V Foods Chief Marketing Officer Anak Kosayodhin told FoodNavigator-Asia during the recent Thaifex-Anuga Asia 2022 trade show.
“As such, the focus for our range has not been to replicate the taste and texture of meat as has been the focus of many firms out there, but instead to find new ways to allow consumers to appreciate plant-based products, without necessarily connecting these to meat.
“We actually do already have a plant-based meat range, the Plant-Based Bites which have a focus on Thai flavours such as larb and tom yum, and the new range is hoped to not only appeal to existing plant-based and flexitarian consumers, but also the remaining consumers who are still sceptical about the category.
“There are four products in this range: Buffalo Cauliflower Wings which use whole pieces of cauliflower; Champignon Mushroom Nuggets which are not reshaped mince but instead whole pieces of mushroom; Spinach and Vegan Cheese Patties which are made of minced spinach and tofu-based cheese; as well as Root Chips which are made of four different types of potatoes.”
The firm has also developed several plant-based sauces to go with the products such as buffalo and tartar, but these are not yet up for individual sale.
As for the original Plant-Based Bites range, all the products in this range are made with splitgill mushroom-based meat from More Meat, of which V Foods is a major investor in.
“It really is important to give consumers options that are not skewed by misconceptions, especially as many of them are now even more cautious with regard to their health post-COVID-19,” Kosayodhin added.
“The thing is though that apart from many start-ups entering this sector with their eye on filling that healthier products gap, what has happened in recent years is that some of the big firms are also looking to enter – and there are significant pros and cons to this.
“The pros of course are that their entry means more people get to know about the category, but the cons are that the development objective [for part of the industry] has now shifted from a sole focus on healthier products, to a focus on affordability in order to facilitate fast growth.
“Increasingly a lot of the focus is on plant-based products as fast foods – look at the focus on burgers, nuggets and so on – but consumers won’t always want fast food, so there must be other options for them.
“Basically, there is still a lot of room in the market for products that are focused on being healthier alternatives – not just cheaper ones.”
In terms of expansion, V Foods plans to look beyond the basic consumer demographics when it comes to exports.
“Usually companies will want to focus on demographics such as gender or age, but we believe that there is a very specific group that our products will appeal the most to, and that is the urban, healthy consumers,” said Kosayodhin.
“We know that it is the consumers living in the cities, experiencing a fast-paced, stressful lifestyle yet crave for ways to change to a healthier, more natural diet that will be the most appreciative of these products – so certainly we see ourselves fitting in markets such as Singapore and we have already recently launched in Hong Kong and the United Kingdom.”