MD Edwin Lee laid out the firm’s expansion plans, starting with entry to neighbouring Singapore in Q1 2023, followed by Indonesia, Dubai and the UK in Q2, Sydney in Q3 and the US in Q4. China, however, will be accessed in Q1 2024, he said.
“I want to do this progressively. We need to study and change the formulation and packaging for each target market. We also want to emphasise the consumer experience for each market; hence, we intend to work with importers to educate the market on the old and new ways of consuming plant-based proteins and enhance retail and staffing at each location,” said Lee.
Not chickening out
Established in June 2021, the Ultimeat Group produces halal-certified non-GMO soy protein ‘chicken’ patties. The firm conducted six months’ worth of research and development (R&D) until December 2021, when the patties were finally ready for commercialisation.
Ultimeat claims the patties are “zero cholesterol, vegan-friendly, high in protein and could be a daily source of nutrients, like calcium, iron and potassium”.
The firm has a 1,858 sqm manufacturing facility (roughly the size of one conventional supermarket), Better Protein Manufacturing, in Taman Klang Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia (western Peninsula Malaysia), with an output of 30 tonnes monthly. It is a subsidiary of San Yang Vegetarian Manufacturing, a producer and supplier of vegetarian products for the past 24 years.
Four Ultimeat patties sell for MYR18.90 (US$4.20) at 280g in total and retail through 10 distributor channels in Malaysia, which Lee claims could tap 85% of the market. He utilises localised supermarkets and hypermarkets like Billion, Super Seven and Nirwana, in both West and East Malaysia, alongside entering the ‘horeca’ (hotels, restaurants and café) sector and popular e-commerce sites like Lazada and Shopee. Based on these factors, the firm witnessed a 50% increase in sales from baseline in Dec 2021 to September 2022.
“Looking at the period of 2022 to 2023, with these expansion plans in place, we expect a 100% increase in sales. The same goes for the period of 2023 to 2024,” he said.
Besides the global expansion plans, Lee said Ultimeat targets launching a nugget version of the protein at 340g or 14 pieces per unit in October 2022. In terms of distribution, the firm targets to enter another 500 retail outlets and bigger entities like Lotus, AEON, Giant and Jaya Grocer within the same month.
Ultimeat is self-funded, but it is kickstarting a Series A fundraising to achieve US$2.5m to develop more products, specifically five more in the next five years. For instance, it aims to use mycoprotein by Q2 2024 to abate supply chain issues of soy in Malaysia. Lee said the country does not have much soy protein; hence, it has to be imported from China and the US.
“Consumers also prefer natural, cleaner labels and no overprocessed food. They provided feedback that the soy we used had a strong taste. They don’t like it and asked whether we could produce it in a better manner. Thus, we are conducting R&D from 2022 to 2024 with five R&D officers to explore the use of mycoprotein.
“We were launched in the midst of the pandemic – at a time when everyone is most concerned about their health. As a food manufacturer, we made it our mission to provide healthier food to consumers. Ultimeat aims to help the nation achieve healthier eating habits through the intake of alternative proteins,” he said.
Proteins, probiotics and healthy ageing are major focus areas of 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.