Two alt-protein heavyweights in the U.S. took major steps this week in their expansions across Asia, underscoring the growing demand (and need) for alternatives to animal protein in that region.
At the tail-end of yesterday, San Francisco-based food tech company Eat Just announced a partnership with a consortium led by food investment fund Proterra to expand JUST Egg across Asia. Via the partnership, Eat Just will build its first production facility in Asia.
The consortium will invest up to $100 million and Eat Just will invest up to $20 million to build the production facility in Singapore. According to the press release from Eat Just, the factory will “generate thousands of metric tons of protein.” From this deal will also come the subsidiary Eat Just Asia, which will serve JUST egg manufacturing and distribution partners across the region.
The new production facility is the largest of its kind in Singapore and will serve a growing demand for plant-based protein in Asia. Eat Just’s flagship plant-based egg product is already available in South Korea, Thailand, and Hong Kong. The company also mentioned, via the aforementioned press release, a “yet-to-be-announced” partnership in mainland China, where it already sells products via e-commerce.
Eat Just and Proterra are also in talks to expand commercial production of cell-based meat, which Eat Just is already in the midst of developing.
Also at the end of yesterday, Impossible Foods announced that its plant-based meat products will be available in retail stores for the first time in Asia. Impossible’s Beef product is now available at 200 grocery stores across Hong Kong and Singapore.
In Hong Kong, consumers can buy Impossible products at 100 ParknShop locations and ParknShop subsidiaries, as well as for delivery online at parknshop.com. Customers in Singapore can find the company’s plant-based beef at 100 FairPrice stores and on grocery e-commerce platform RedMart.
Impossible debuted in the Asian market at restaurants in 2018, but this week’s news marks the first time the company’s products will be available to home chefs.
But while Impossible may be expanding its plant-based empire, one area we shouldn’t expect to see the company branch into is cell-based meat. In fact, when asked about cell-based meat at last week’s Smart Kitchen Summit, Impossible CEO Pat Brown flatly said, “It’s never going to be a thing.” Brown called it “irreversibly expensive” and added that meat grown in a lab would never be a commercial endeavor.
Eat Just doesn’t share the same view. Company founder and CEO Josh Tetrick, who was also at SKS, shared his views on the eventual reality of cell-based meat and gave us a rough timeline and included steps his company and others have to take in order to go from prototype to retail shelves with cell-based meat. It won’t be soon. Tetrick said “north of 15 years” for cell-based meat, and others have cited similar timeframes.
Were cell-based meat to become a commercial reality, Asia is an obvious region to aim for. Increasing urbanization and population growth, particularly in Southeast Asia, has led to a growing demand for animal proteins. This demand has consequences both for the environment and for human health.
Those are challenges plant-based proteins can address, too, hence the quickly rising number of companies in Asia, from Omnipork to Black Sheep Foods and now Eat Just and Impossible. While we wait for cell-based proteins over the long terms, we can expect both demand for and production of plant-based products to continue rising in Asia and beyond.