Singapore’s growing appetite for sustainable meals has pushed more eateries to include plant-based dishes in their menu, and the country has seen a steady influx of alternative protein companies setting up base here.
Tokyo-based food tech company Next Meats is Singapore’s latest addition to the local alternative protein space. The company had started out with product development in 2017 and was officially established in 2020.
It specialises in the R&D of Japanese-style alternative meat products made with non-GMO soy and pea proteins, and is now bringing their selection of plant-based patties, gyudon, and yakiniku meats to Southeast Asia.
As part of this ambition, Next Meats is setting up a plant-based yakiniku meat factory in Singapore.
Why it’s setting up presence in Singapore
Next Meats will collaborate with its exclusive distributor, Global Good Plant Meat, and local meat importer and distributor, Tiong Lian Food for its Singapore venture.
Larry Teo from Tiong Lian Food revealed that Next Meats’ new facility will be built in Bukit Batok by end-2021. He added that the Singapore facility will process and pack the products, while all ingredients will still come from Japan.
Next Meats is currently working with its Singapore partners to scale its production according to local consumer demands.
It might be puzzling that this company would set up base in Singapore, where production costs are expectedly much higher than in neighbouring countries. However, it seems like the company is making a strategic decision after prioritising the advantages over cost.
Singapore’s legislation also makes it easy for Next Meats to import ingredients from Japan, as well as attain necessary authentications such as HACCP, ISO and halal certifications.
Finding distribution channels to other regions is also a smoother process from a Singapore base.
In a media preview, Next Meats also cited Singapore’s high consumer education level as a key consideration that determined it to be the most strategic place for the company’s regional launch. The company believes that their products will be more accepted by Singaporean consumers who can appreciate the company’s sustainability and health angles.
“We have successfully established (our) presence in the Japanese market with our alternative yakiniku meats and are now pushing ahead with our global ambitions,” says Hideyuki Sasaki, CEO of Next Meats.
“Singapore, with her robust infrastructure and innovation culture, makes an ideal stronghold for us. We look forward to coming up with new products that excite the palate as well as drive food sustainability in Southeast Asia.”
Beyond its factory plans, Next Meats is also launching two meat-free products in collaboration with popular manga series Demon Slayer, which will be available for a limited period at Aburi-EN stores islandwide.
It will also be launching their plant-based instant curry (priced at S$7.49 a box), which will be exclusively available at all Don Don Donki stores this September.
Those eager to try more Next Meats products can also head over to Yakiniku-Like, Privé, Yoshinoya, tcc – The Connoisseur Concerto, and Aloha Avenue, to try some Japanese-inspired plant-based meat dishes, or shop online at Zairyo for some exclusive Next Meats meals.
They’re betting big on the growing plant-based market
Next Meats expects the plant-based protein market to triple in growth over the next five years.
They are now betting on Asia to be the largest plant-based food market after Europe, which is why the company hopes to expand globally from its new Singapore base.
With an eye on the plant-based food market in Taiwan, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and the United States, Next Meats is also preparing for export to China.
The company is also working on bringing down the cost of its products to make its plant-based meat alternatives affordable and accessible to the masses.
Currently, Next Meats is priced comparatively to beef, which costs between S$32 and S$40 per kilogram. They hope that with a larger economy of scale, they can acquire raw materials like soybean powder at a lower price, so consumers can enjoy even greater value.
This October, the company plans to launch a whole range of vegan additions to its plant-based product line in Japan: Next chicken in flavours like original garlic herb roast and tandoori, Next tuna, Next pork, egg substitute Next egg, and dairy alternative Next milk.
Akira Yasuda, CEO of Global Good Plant Meat, said in a media preview yesterday that they are in the process of bringing these new products to Singapore as soon as they can. He also confirmed that Next Meats has many more plant-based products that are currently in the development phase.
Is there room for yet another sustainable plant-based business in Singapore?
As someone who has been vegetarian for almost two decades, I personally find Japanese cuisine to be the least accommodating as most dishes are reliant on meat.
The upcoming launch of Next Meats’ Japanese-style vegan meat substitutes would definitely make it much easier for locals inclined towards plant-based diets to dine out with friends who insist on Japanese fare.
Next Meats is very popular in Japan now, having scored major collaborations with companies like IKEA Japan, Yakiniku-Like, and Ten Fingers Burger. Their products can also be bought in many supermarkets in the country.
However, the brand’s eventual success in Singapore seems more like a gamble. Singapore is already home to a host of plant-based meat alternative brands, and competition is quite stiff.
Will there be room for yet another sustainable meat substitute? It all boils down to cost and availability, more so than other factors like taste and texture.
While Next Meats is trying to lower its cost, their products still seem more expensive than your typical meal. Existing vegans and vegetarians might be excited for newcomers in the plant-based food business, but it’s hard to get the meat eaters to pay a premium in the name of sustainability.
Regardless, it’s a good step forward to even have the option.
A successful plant-based future might only be a reality through a two-factor approach. Firstly, people must be increasingly aware of ethical, health and environmental reasons to ditch actual meat. Secondly, the public has to be progressively proactive in taking steps to change their eating habits.
Meanwhile, any plant-based business’ best bet to influence any substantial change in mass consumer uptake is incentivising with affordability and scale.
Featured Image Credit: Next Meats