The company claims peanuts are not only on par with the more conventional soy-based plant-based products, but also superior when it comes to certain nutrients.
“Our research has shown that Chinese consumers top peeves when it comes to plant-based products that prevent them from consuming these regularly are these not being tasty, these being expensive, and the perception of these essentially being just another tofu, which is a major challenge if using soy,” Haofood CEO Astrid Prajogo told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“That is why we opted not to go with the conventional soy as an ingredient but instead with peanut after going through intensive research and getting good feedback on this – importantly, we are able to use the byproduct of peanut oil production in our manufacturing, which makes our products cheaper than soy.
“From a nutrition point of view, the overall nutritional value of our peanut-based products is on par with soy and is actually higher in Vitamin E, which female consumers are very keen on as this tends towards the functional health benefits side of things.”
Prajogo also highlighted versatility as a very important factor in production when it comes to the Chinese market, where a simple mince is not able to cut it due to the complexity of local cuisines.
“We are able to achieve various product textures as that is mostly an extrusion game and how we set parameters such as water, temperature and so on, but the main thing here is for the product to be able to used in various formats from steaming to stir frying,” she said.
“Based on our proprietary technology platform, we have been able to create various dishes using the peanut-based meat, from local Xinjiang meat skewers to xiao long bao (Chinese dim sum dumplings containing meat and soup).
“The xiao long bao especially is the first plant-based pork product in the market in this style, and is steamed just like a regular xiao long bao with the soup inside e.g. in dry form that turns into liquid after cooking.”
Haofood also recently completed a study on the demand for clean label in the country in an effort to find out reasons consumers might not be welcoming to plant-based products, and found that the mention of additives emerged as a big hurdle to be crossed.
“Chinese consumers want their food to be not only tasty but also healthy and functional, and the culture here towards food is increasingly risk adverse as well as label conscious,” Prajogo added.
“So the mere mention of an additive like carrageenan could really turn them off as they start wondering if the product is safe to eat – which brings us to the point of how it is now very important for products to be additive free.
“This is why we are also launching our own range of clean label plant-based products made from peanuts, in order to resonate with current consumer demands in China.”
Convenience important for expansion
In addition to taste and health attributes, the firm also believes that making products in convenient formats is key to bringing in consumers, particularly those from the younger generation.
“Younger consumers, especially those in Gen Z, are very much less inclined to cook and tend to veer away from the complexities of preparing ingredients to make complicated dishes in the kitchen,” said Prajogo.
“We thus believe that making the product not only versatile, but available in easy to use or eat formats like dim sum, will greatly appeal to these consumers, and having these be clean label and high in vitamin E as well will be an added attraction.”