Let’s Plant Meat first burst onto the plant-based scene in 2020 as a spin-off from flavour specialist firm Nithi Foods, marketing its then-only product, a plant-based burger patty, as a more affordable version of imported plant-based burger patties from western firms such as Beyond.
Two years on, the firm has not only entered multiple big Thai supermarket names such as Tesco Lotus and Big C, but has also made overseas entries into other markets such as Singapore and has also expanded its product portfolio by many times-fold.
One of its most recent ventures has been into creating more localised, culturally relevant plant-based products in order to meet rising demand in Thailand.
“Apart from burger patties which are more western-style and tonkatsu cutlets (fried pork cutlets) which are more Japanese, we now also have a wide range of items that are true to our Thai heritage such as Larb meatballs and shrimp cutlets, the number one selling seafood product in Thailand commonly eaten with sweet plum sauce,” Let’s Plant Meat Founder and CEO Smith Taweelerdniti told FoodNavigator-Asia whilst unveiling these innovations at the recent ThaiFex-Anuga Asia 2022 event.
“We’ve also tried to infuse our Chiang Mai heritage into our innovation beyond just Thai culture, so now we have also made plant-based Chiang Mai sausages and fermented pork.
“These are very cultural and traditional foods, and with the rising demand for plant-based meat in the country, we wanted to make sure that we could bring these traditional products and make them accessible in a plant-based format as well.”
Taweelerdniti primarily credited the growth of plant-based in Thailand to rising consumer health awareness leading to them seeking out options to reduce their meat intake – but also pointed out inflationary costs on traditional meat as another driving factor.
“We are seeing prices of conventional meat on the rise - pork prices for example shot up to be twice as high as before at one point – whereas as the sector grows, plant-based meat prices are coming down,” he said.
“So what we are seeing is that the plant-based meat and conventional meat pricing gap is getting closer and closer, and this is drawing in even more new consumers into the market and driving up their acceptance of plant-based products.”
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A valuable cycle
As the sector grows in scale and plant-based product pricing decreases, this in turn brings in more consumers with helps the sector to grow even further, a valuable cycle which is hoped to accelerate plant-based industry maturation in Thailand and the ASEAN region.
“Thailand’s plant-based sector is at a stage where very fast proliferation is taking place, and we are seeing more and more companies and brands big and small appearing and wanting to be a part of this industry,” said Taweelerdniti.
“And at the same time, most of these players are also now looking for ways to stand out and differentiate themselves, whether this means a specialisation in seafood, or poultry, or flavours, or other areas.
“This is the sort of [change] that leads to fast growth, and at the end of the day it is consumers that will benefit the most as they will have access to more and better varieties of plant-based products within their reach.”