Tyson VP Exclusive Part I: Strong APAC flexitarian consumer base makes alternative protein products ‘very complementary’
US-based Tyson Foods is one of the best-known names in the processed and frozen meat products category all over the world, having significant market share of this category in just about every region globally since it was first founded in 1935.
The firm’s APAC headquarters is located in Bangkok, Thailand, from which it exports products to over 25 countries across the region as well as to the Middle East and Europe.
Leading the firm’s strategies in this region in terms of commercial, marketing, business development and various other key categories is Yeong Sheng Lee, who has observed the growth of the company’s plant-based brand First Pride Green Series under the First Pride brand in the region since its inception.
“The category as a whole is obviously growing very strongly, and it is why Tyson is very keen to emphasise to all our consumers that we are not just a meat company, but a protein company, and we specialise in all sorts of protein from meat to alternative options like plant-based,” he told FoodNavigator-Asia in an exclusive interview.
“The entire conception of the First Pride plant-based line was very much consumer-based, as we had been doing a lot of consumer surveys and found that although many of them were aware of this category, they got disappointed when they tried it the first time and would never go back as a result.
“And even for those somewhat more dedicated who would go in again to try another brand, they would likely get disappointed again and then give up – so we identified this as a very significant barrier to entry, and decided to focus a lot of effort to develop our plant-based innovations with good taste as a priority.”
When asked whether this alternative protein focus would in any way interfere or increase competition for its conventional animal protein products, Lee confidently stated that this was unlikely, especially at this stage.
“Regardless of the plant-based market’s rapid growth, the fact is that meat protein is still a very large segment and we being in both segments can see that – by comparison, I’d say plant-based is more or less just starting to pick up,” he said.
“There is no doubt that population and income growth in Asia is increasing, and as this happens, the demand for protein is likely to accelerate as well, so there is unlikely to be any slowdown in the demand for animal protein even as plant-based picks up.
“Additionally, we have seen that many of our consumers are actually flexitarians so they are looking to have animal protein several times a week and then plant-based protein on other days – so the demand for this is coming in more as a mix which makes these very complementary to one another, and not so much of one substituting the other and becoming competitors.”
First Pride also lays claim to being one of the first plant-based brands to launch localised products as well as being a pioneer in establishing the snacking format.
“First Pride Green Series was first launched in Malaysia, then in Thailand and Singapore so we could do our proofs of concept here – which received very positive feedback and managed to achieve market leading positions very quickly, so we soon hope to expand to more Asian markets including Taiwan, South Korea and the Philippines in the next few months,” said Lee.
“One area where we were one of the first to innovate in was product localisation, so we have things like masala bites, satay strips and Hainanese chicken cutlets in Malaysia as well as Larb in Thailand, which we do believe has helped tremendously in appealing to local consumers.
“We were also pioneers in making these plant-based products in snacking formats – so as opposed to burger patties or steaks which usually need to be eaten in proper meals, we launched with snack foods such as spicy nuggets and strips and bites that can be consumed on their own.
“This format reimagination also seems to have paid off very well seeing the reception in our initial markets, and although in the next 12 months we are looking to do a bit more consolidation to our regional First Pride offerings, we will continue to focus on taste and format innovation in our product development.”
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this exclusive interview with Tyson, coming soon on FoodNavigator-Asia.
Proteins, probiotics and healthy ageing will be major focus areas in our upcoming Growth Asia Summit in Singapore from 11 to 13 October. Check out big-name brands, international experts and pioneering start-ups slated to present here.