Although the plant-based sector is increasingly coming into its own in the Asia Pacific region, especially in the plant-based meat area, its fast growth does not yet mean that all kinks in the production and innovation process have been ironed out.
One of the key ones that still needs to be overcome with a high level of accuracy is to convert what consumers want into real product concepts – and the qualitative nature of this challenge only adds to its difficulty.
“As it is, everything in this space has already got to be created as it is a completely new sector, so it is even more important to accurately understand the properties [that make a good product],” Roquette Senior Executive Vice President Jeremy Burks told FoodNavigator-Asia at the recent Fi Asia Thailand show in Bangkok.
“But when looking at these properties, it is just as important to get these in terms of what consumers want, but consumers tend to describe these extensively in very vague terms.
“It remains up to us to be able to articulate these properties in terms of technical parameters, so as to transfer these properties to the actual products by creating the right processes – and that’s a big scientific effort, one which we have invested a lot in, over half a billion euros, over the past couple of years.
“To develop products of the future for Asia, there is no doubt that whatever succeeds will need to be done the Asian way, and we cannot rely on just copy-paste of existing products in the United States or Europe, as that will not fly here.”
Getting these parameters right is even more important in the APAC region as Asian consumer tastebuds are well-known to be amongst the most discerning.
“In Asia there is no doubt that taste is very, very important,” Roquette APAC CEO Rohit Markan added.
“Alongside that though, we are also seeing that there is going to be a lot of change in the meat eating here towards meat alternatives over the coming five years, and the potential is really tremendous.
“There will be a switch to more plant-based products and alternatives, and we believe this is going to happen not just in the meat space but also the beverage space.”
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Constant innovation crucial
Roquette is by no means new to the plant-based space, having been in business dealing with corn, wheat, potato, pea ingredients and more since as far back as 1933 – and even with this long history the firm believes that innovation and making newer products is important for progress.
“In this plant-based space, the most important thing is really to focus on innovation and [constantly] developing new capabilities,” said Markan.
“We’ve invested very significantly in facilities in Asia, and in Singapore alone we have three laboratories focusing on developing new products, new textures, new tastes and so on.
“Moving forward, we intend to continue investing in a similar pattern in this region to countries like Japan, South Korea as well as India.”