Start-up Spotlight: Doctor V, Aroma Truffle, Forrest Brew and more entrepreneuring firms feature in our round-up

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

Doctor V,  Aroma Truffle, Forrest Brew and more entrepreneuring firms feature in this edition of Start-up Spotlight.
Doctor V, Aroma Truffle, Forrest Brew and more entrepreneuring firms feature in this edition of Start-up Spotlight.

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Doctor V, Aroma Truffle, Forrest Brew and more entrepreneuring firms feature in this edition of Start-up Spotlight.

Going beyond energy: Australia's Doctor V reinforces focus on functional drink innovation in APAC to ride on growing trend

Australian firm Doctor V is moving beyond an energy drinks focus to innovate in the wider functional beverage space, hoping to ride on the growth of the functional drinks trend in APAC.

Doctor V's hero ingredient in its products is Siberian pine needle extract, an adaptogen that is known for its high content of vitamin C, iron, antioxidants and other micro-nutrients. 

Based on this, the firm has developed four different functional beverages thus far focusing on Mood (containing damiana), Clarity and Focus (nootropics), Recovery (liver and kidney cleansing herbs), and Workout (green tea extract for caffeine). 

"All of our products use berries and herbs that are handpicked and wild – none of these ingredients are farmed – making these very premium and exclusive, and we use different combinations of herbs, berries and vitamins to bring out the best functionality from each drink,”​ Doctor V Head of Marketing Richard Hugo Lark told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

Italia to Asia: Singapore’s Aroma Truffle aims for Asia, Middle East expansion

Singapore firm Aroma Truffle is targeting expansion to Vietnam and Myanmar, along with Middle East markets such as the UAE, for its snacks and sauces by early 2024.

Established in 2017, the award-winning firm has 15 SKUs innovated from the luxurious truffle. For instance, it has five potato chip flavours, two popcorn types, oil, butter, sea salt, dipping sauces and seasonal mooncakes for the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival. The expansion plans come on the back of its recent entry to Japan and existing presence in 11 other countries – Thailand, South Korea, China, Taiwan, Australia, Brunei, Hongkong, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Canada.

“There is a gap in Asia on the consumption of truffles. It is something new and worth spreading. To the Italians, harvesting ingredients, preparing and presenting the final dish demonstrated their passion and a form of refined art," ​said the firm’s co-founder Kayson Chan, who also acts as its Marketing and Business Development Director.

Brewing with a local twist: ASEAN kombucha market ripe for growth due to health demands

The kombucha market in South East Asia is poised for explosive growth over the next few years due to a significant rise in consumer health awareness and demand for immunity-boosting drinks across various markets.

According to Singapore kombucha specialist firm Forrest Brew, ‘the time is right’ for kombucha to really make a name for itself in the region, where various brands have popped up but the sector stil stands on the precipice of really moving out of being a niche category.

“If you mention kombucha in places like Australia or the United States, there is no need for further explanation and it is just about what everyone’s favourite brand is – the sector is not quite as mature here in South East Asia but we are definitely seeing signs that it is significantly picking up,”​ Forrest Brew Co-Founder Clara Chan told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

No culture or context: Too many plant-based firms ‘overengineering ingredients’ amid aggressive expansion – Dynamic Foodco CEO

Too many plant-based firms are ‘overengineering ingredients’ and ‘forcing solutions’ on investors and consumers, without paying enough attention to Asian culture and context, according to a regional expert in the alternative protein space.

CEO and founder of Singapore-registered plant-based foodtech firm Dynamic Foodco and ex Quorn exec, Dr Andy Kusumo believes too many firms are pushing for consumers to give up meat without ‘thinking out of the box’.

“The trend among consumers is that they are aware of sustainability issues, but they do not want to give up meat. Plant-based firms are jumping too quickly to achieve the end-goal of sustainability without understanding what it takes, like grasping culture and context,"​ he said.

Innovation splurge: Thailand’s Sesamilk on dairy alternative expansion and calls for government SME support

Thai firm Sesamilk is planning a major portfolio expansion for its dairy alternative products, whilst also calling for the government to provide more taxation and financial support for SMEs to accelerate growth.

When we last spoke to Sesamilk last year, the Thai firm had just started with its exports to markets such as China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau and Vietnam based on just two products – white and black sesame milk. Less than two years on, it has expanded its reach into several more markets such as Singapore, Malaysia and the United States, and is now working on significantly expanding its product portfolio in order to cater to even more consumers and markets.

“We are a specialist in sesame and do not intend to change this, so our new product development will be focused on a more vertical path,”​ Sesamilk CEO Siripen Suntornmonkongsri told FoodNavigator-Asia​ at the recent Thaifex-Anuga Asia 2022 trade show.

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