02 Nov The market of plant-based proteins in Asia Pacific
Meat analogues, also known as meat substitutes or mock meat, is not new to Asia. The introduction of meat analogues emerged in 6th century AD, influenced by the restricted diets of Chinese Buddhism. Traditionally, wheat-gluten or soy-based products were common ingredients found in meat analogues. One example is tempeh in Indonesia, a traditional fermented soy-based food originating from Java. Another example is soy milk in Japan, a conventional ingredient used to make yuba (curdled soymilk) which is usually eaten alone or thinly sliced and prepared with vegetables. These products have been used throughout Asia in areas where poverty restricted access to meat as well as religious dietary restrictions. As such, plant-based foods were more affordable, functional, and nutritious protein sources for this population1.
The current potential of this market
Over the years, plant-based meats have become more meat-like in appearance and texture. Soy-based meat analogues have garnered the largest market share in Asia, while other newer proteins like pea, mycoproteins, and lab-grown cultured meat are also showing growth in this region. To appeal to mainstream meat-eaters, plant-based meat products were developed to mimic favorite foods in familiar formats like burger patties and sausages2.
Today, consumers eating habits are influenced by increasing concern for health, environment and ethical topics. As a result, many consumers are responsibly reducing their consumption of animal products. According to Euromonitor, there are a total of 4.98 million vegetarian in APAC, with India having the largest vegetarian population of 3.68 million in this region3.
Here is how the market is made up
Back in 2010, 53% of meat substitute launches in APAC came with vegetarian claims, targeting a very niche group of consumers. Vegetarian diet is defined by no consumption of meat with a food make up consisting of vegetables, grains, and sometimes eggs and dairy products. Traditional mock meats have faced image issues due to their highly processed nature and low nutritional value. However, mock meat launches have moved towards the GMO free and vegan/ animal free direction over the last five years. Starting in 2015, Asia Pacific became a rising market for “flexitarian” dieters, who occasionally substitute meat in their diet with plant-based protein. This newfound interest in plant-based foods offers lucrative growth opportunities in this segment4.
According to a 2018 study from Global Data, the meat alternative market value represents 927 million dollars and 59 million dollars in Australasia, with a 4,2% and 2,4% estimated CAGR between 2018 & 20235. The growth of plant-based diets is influenced by multiple factors such as:
- Health & Wellness: approximately 36% of Thai consumers eat protein substitutes compared to 10% who do it for religious or cultural purposes. Over 53% of Japanese consumers have tried plant-based foods in search of a healthier lifestyle6. Health concern was also the number one reason Australians and New Zealanders chose to consume less meat, as reported in a consumer research study by Colmar Brunton7.
- Ethics & Environment: Post covid-19 surveys shows 49% of South Koreans agree that plant-based foods are better for the environment than meat and dairy products. A Mintel survey based on the frequency of food behaviors with 1000 respondents revealed that 33% of Indians limit their meat intake all the time8.
- Trust in food safety: Concerned with the global epidemics and food safety, consumers are more selective in the foods they consume. Last year, the pork supply was abruptly altered and caused inflationary pressure on food prices in Asia due to swine fever. This incident caused consumers to substitute pork with alternative food types like other meats or plant-based alternatives9.
Developing products to address these topics is causing the plant protein space to grow. Biospringer has the technical capability to bring solutions to the market. Our team in Asia Pacific, based in Singapore, has been developing a dedicated yeast extract portfolio with new applications such as plant-based chicken nuggets and vegan mayonnaise, in order to meet consumers expectations.
- Euromonitor International, Plant-based Meat Substitutes: Opportunities and Challenges in Southeast Asia, 2020
- Ismail, I., Hwang, Y. H., & Joo, S. T. (2020). Meat analog as future food: a review. Journal of animal science and technology, 62(2), 111–120. https://doi.org/10.5187/jast.2020.62.2.111
- Euromonitor International, Vegetarian Population: Euromonitor International from European Vegetarian and Animal News Alliance (EVANA), European Vegetarian Union, national sources, 2020
- Mintel, The future of meat in Asia: animal, plant-based or cell-based?, 2020
- Global Data, 2018
- Asia Fund Managers, Japan: Vegan Food’s Growing Popularity Spurs Industry Innovation, 2020
- Food Frontier, A Guide for Consumers: Introducing Plant-Based Meat, 2019
- Mintel Interactive Databooks, Food Tracker: Frequency of Food Behaviours, 2020
- Singapore Business Review, Pork Production in Southeast Asia Plunges as African Swine Fever Spreads, 2019