When we last spoke to Thoughtful Food, the firm had rolled out a range of dry plant-based powder mixes as a base for making plant-based meat in various formats in order to offer consumers maximum flexibility and increased convenience.
Fast forward to this year, it has taken the convenience factor a step further with the launch of its new plant-based RTE meals range, targeting not only health-conscious consumers but also busy ones.
“The opportunity for RTE meals are really everywhere at the moment, as everyone’s lifestyle is getting busier,” Thoughtful Food Founder Karen Lam told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“We’d like to prep our own food of course, but with work being too busy in many Asian markets, the last thing we’d want upon getting home is to cook so fast solutions are now very much in demand.
“Yet at the same time, consumers are also more aware of their health and diet now following the COVID-19 pandemic, so they are more conscious and eat more healthily.
“This RTE range is our way of marrying the convenience and nutrition factors together to provide these as a single, easy-yet-healthy option for consumers.”
The other advantage of the RTE range is the opening up of opportunities for Thoughtful Food to expand to overseas markets, given the rising demand for such formats.
“We have had a lot of interest from neighbouring countries in the region such as Malaysia and Australia already; and are also eyeing markets as far as Europe and the United States,” she said.
“These products utilise a retort technology, so we have been able to avoid putting in additives, extra sodium, extra sugar or oil to preserve them.
“Plus because it only takes a few seconds of quick flash heating, the integrity of the real, fresh vegetables that we put in are not sacrificed - so we also can offer these fresh vegetables instead of using dehydrated vegetables.
“We have done some taste tests with gyms in Singapore, and some of the main feedback has been that they were shocked by the bright colours of the carrots, beans corn and so on because they've always associated [RTE] food with canned products where they're usually dark and mushy and boring.
“The conversion rate was very high, so we think we’ve found quite a bit of a sweet spot - I don't think it's perfect yet and we will continue to refine, but at least this can serve as a very quick solution for those with busy lifestyles.”
Thoughtful Food’s RTE range is currently available as three meal types: Mexican Corn Salad, Southwest Brown Rice and Oriental Quinoa & Black Rice. These are retailing on various online platforms from Lazada to Amazon and offline at independent grocery retailers and health-oriented institutions.
Sports nutrition in a small package
Lam believes that gymnasium frequenters will be a key consumer group for this product, and that the dense and defined nutrition contained in each pack, retailing at S$5.50 (US$4.11) for each 160g pack, will be a major draw.
“The packs may look small, but each is very dense and can easily last a person for a meal,” she said.
“The sports and nutrition community is likely to find them very helpful as well because the calories are also very well defined down to the micros and macros, which can work for any fitness level or personal health goals.
“The flexibility also is still there – more serious athletes can easily have a can and pair this with more protein like fish or chicken breast; and bigger eaters can add fruits, nuts or even extra salad as an upgrade.
“The marketing for this is not as a pure vegan product per se, but instead as a healthy, nutrition-balanced option.”