Acceleration of plant-based meat is a critical component of achieving the deep emissions cuts necessary to avert further climate crises. Given the breathtaking scale of change necessary to reduce global reliance on industrial animal agriculture, no institution or company can do it alone. To facilitate collaboration with recommended stakeholders and partners, experts from The Good Food Institute Asia Pacific (GFI APAC) are building a comprehensive “one-stop shop” resource: the APAC Alternative Protein Ecosystem Database.
This first-of-its-kind database—which will be consistently updated going forward—provides a broad view of the business-to-business (B2B) ecosystem for plant-based meat production in Singapore. Moving forward, we aim to expand this to all pillars of alternative proteins and additional countries in the region. Informed by direct interviews with dozens of key regional players, we have consolidated crucial information about local ingredient sourcing, pilot production facilities, co-manufacturers, consultants, and many other services that are otherwise not readily accessible in the public domain.
In conducting research for this new database, we also gained pivotal insights into the strengths and limitations of Singapore’s plant-based meat manufacturing ecosystem.
To dive in, please select an insight section below.
The breakdown of services available through the entities based in Singapore is outlined below. Note that some offer multiple services.
The vast scope of resources suddenly available in Singapore is illustrative of the fact that while market penetration of plant-based meat has been lower in Asia Pacific than some other regions, this dynamic appears to be rapidly changing. Spurred along by a proactive government laser-focused on transitioning away from its historical reliance on food imports, both the public and private sectors in Singapore have embraced a concerted push to build a more resilient and forward-looking food system, with alternative proteins playing a starring role.
* Note: As the APAC Alternative Protein Ecosystem Database is a living resource, it will be consistently updated as our research scope widens and additional entities appear and disappear. To provide feedback or input on any database entries, please email APAC@GFI.org.
Singapore boasts more foreign-owned food and beverage R&D centers than any other city in the world. Many of those centers also serve as the regional R&D headquarters for international legacy food brands, meaning that they contain both technical experts and commercial sales staff for the broader Asia Pacific region.
New R&D and product development services are also coming online at a rapid pace—including both public and private entities, as well as public-private partnerships—resulting in a wide variety of expertise and facilities to serve different companies’ needs.
In the course of our research, we asked stakeholders about the following kinds of facilities and gauged how accessible they are to prospective customers and partners.
- Test kitchens: Used to develop new foods and products, a test kitchen could be a basic facility with just the essential appliances for individual taste-testing or a fully equipped restaurant-style facility with industrial-sized ovens, stoves, and organized ingredient storage systems.
- Application or research labs: Differentiated from test kitchens in that they have capabilities to perform testing for physical or chemical properties (viscosity, pH, texture, microbiological content, etc.). In most cases, instruments in an application lab will be operated by trained R&D food technologists or scientists.
- Pilot plants: A scaled-down factory built to simulate food manufacturing practices. The main differences between a pilot plant and an application or research lab are the expectation of minimum batch sizes—which can range anywhere from 10kg up to 500kg—and larger scale. Pilot plants are ideally designed to replicate continuous industrial processes and most will have operators to facilitate trials while the R&D team members supervise.
A snapshot of some of the R&D capabilities that Singapore-based entities offer (or will soon offer) the plant-based sector are listed below and highlight the pace of developments in this space over the last few years.
Public sector- and academic-affiliated research facilities
- Singapore Institute for Food and Biotechnology Innovation (SIFBI): An institution within the Agency for Science, Technology, and Research (A*STAR) established in early 2020, this entity has capabilities ranging from novel ingredient discovery to food process engineering. SIFBI is also partnering with global investment company Temasek to open a new Food Tech Innovation Centre by mid-2022 to provide comprehensive scale-up support to food technology startups.
- The Food Innovation and Resource Centre (FIRC): Launched in 2007 as a joint initiative between Singapore Polytechnic and Enterprise Singapore (formerly known as SPRING Singapore), the FIRC was established to provide food enterprises with technical expertise in new product and process development. This facility also has plans to acquire a high-moisture extruder.
- Food Plant: Singapore’s first shared facility for small-batch food production, R&D consultancy, and training courses to support innovation in the food manufacturing industry. Their new facility will be launched in phases and is anticipated to be fully open in 2022. The facility will be run by the Singapore Institute of Technology in partnership with Enterprise Singapore and JTC Food Hub @ Senoko.
- The National University of Singapore Department of Food Science and Technology and the Food Science and Technology Programme at Nanyang Technological University: Both boast world-class food science research facilities and offer semester-long modules specifically focused on the development of alternative proteins.
- Singapore University of Technology and Design: Offers 3D food printing and food ink formulation.
Private sector facilities
GFI APAC has identified 29 private sector facilities that possess either a test kitchen (15), application or research laboratory (22), or pilot plant (17). Some offer multiple kinds of facilities.
Some particularly notable private sector R&D and product development facilities recently opened for business in Singapore (or coming soon) include:
- The Protein Innovation Centre: Opened in 2021 and jointly operated by multinational food companies Bühler and Givaudan, it is Singapore’s first industrial-scale plant-based meat innovation center.
- Plant-based Innovation Lab in ADM’s Biopolis Research Hub: Also opened in 2021, this facility features a combination of experts in proteins and texturing ingredients, coupled with flavor specialists, allowing the company to quickly and efficiently create tailor-made solutions for the Asian consumer palate.
- The KH Roberts-Leistritz partnership: This joint innovation partnership has brought global leaders in aroma and taste together with experts in process engineering to operate KH Roberts’s second pilot-scale high-moisture extrusion system.
- SGProtein: Have scheduled to open a large-scale high-moisture extrusion contract manufacturing facility for alternative meats by the end of 2021.
- Shandi Global: The Singapore-based B2B firm has recently established a high-moisture extrusion production facility expected to produce up to 150 metric tons of product per month. They offer product development and application trials to customers.
The most populous stakeholder category in Singapore’s plant-based meat ecosystem, ingredient suppliers can be further divided into a number of critical subcategories (again noting that some entities work in a variety of ingredient types):
|Ingredient product type||Number of entities|
|Protein flours, isolates, and concentrates||12|
|Fats and oils||3|
|Carbohydrates (starches and fibers)||6|
|Flavors or masking agents||9|
Of the 23 total ingredient supplier entities that service Singapore’s plant-based meat sector and have registered in our database, GFI APAC has identified 15 that possess associated facilities potentially available to customers, including eight pilot plant facilities, 13 application or research laboratories, and nine test kitchens.
Because of the outsized role that Singapore plays in many companies’ regional strategy, many of these facilities have a range of technical staff available on site to solve any problems that may emerge. For example, R&D personnel from an ingredient supplier can often join customers in observing trial runs. This is an advantage not as readily available outside of Singapore and one that is especially helpful for small startups that do not have a lot of manufacturing experience.
Additionally, Singapore’s compact size means that B2B providers are often in relatively close proximity to each other. This is helpful for startups because, as an example, a protein supplier and flavor supplier could work together on finding solutions to mask flavor off-notes or increase protein content in their formulations without having to travel long distances.
Within the food industry, prototypes are often first produced in a test kitchen or application lab at a small scale. The superior prototypes will then continue on to pilot-scale production to test their ability to translate to industrial-scale systems. If the product proves successful, the final step is generally to utilize a co-manufacturer for commercial-scale production if the company cannot (or chooses not to) invest in their own facility.
GFI APAC has identified a number of advantages that Singapore offers to this process that are more challenging to find in other innovation hubs:
- High-moisture extrusion (HME) capabilities are expanding considerably in Singapore and at a high capacity.** In late 2021, Growthwell became the first company to offer co-manufacturing HME services in Singapore.
- Pilot-scale facilities are broadly available; however, some capabilities are only available to certain customers or companies at the owner’s discretion. As a result, small and mid-size enterprises should perform due diligence regarding the capabilities a potential partner could make accessible to them. The APAC Alternative Protein Ecosystem Database is designed to make these capabilities easier to seek out.
Among plant-based meat production relevant entities in Singapore, we have identified 19 that possess a pilot plant or co-manufacturing capability. Of those, nine entities have HME capabilities, ranging from the ability to provide lab-scale 5kg batches up to as much as eight metric tons per day.
The aforementioned opening of Growthwell’s plant-based meat manufacturing facility and forthcoming launch of SGProtein’s large-scale production facility—both of which have identified themselves as co-manufacturers in our database—represent the next stage of maturity for HME capacity in the region. GFI APAC is also aware of at least three more entities that have plans to install high-moisture extrusion capacity: The Food Innovation and Resource Centre, FoodPlant @ SIT, and the Food Tech Innovation Centre, which according to Geraldine Goh, Director of Temasek’s Enterprise Development Group, aims to bridge the pilot-scale stage “valley of death” for startups scaling up their processes for commercialization.
** Note: We have emphasized high-moisture extrusion in our research because it is a newer and harder to access technology than low-moisture extrusion (LME). LME has been widely available since the 1960s and its output—textured vegetable protein— can be easily transported for further production formulation at different locations. While the market is likely to shift towards more sophisticated texturization approaches like HME in the coming decades, we expect that through 2030 a substantial majority of plant-based meat products will continue to be produced via LME due to its high throughput production capability, fundamental cost advantages, ability to produce shelf-stable products, and broad availability in countries around the world. Industry experts suggest that today LME accounts for about 85 percent of plant-based meat manufacturing globally. They expect that in the coming decade there will be a modest increase in HME production, but LME will nonetheless remain the dominant form of extrusion.
In conducting interviews with dozens of regional stakeholders, a number of common themes have emerged for why companies are attracted to the Singaporean alternative protein ecosystem.
- Trust and IP protection: The importance of intellectual property (IP) protection and trust was rated very highly by a number of stakeholders we spoke with. Companies often have to share details of product formulations or manufacturing processes to work effectively with partners, so security of core IP and trade secrets is a paramount priority that often influences which countries a company chooses to conduct business in. This is particularly true for small or newer companies that do not have a legacy brand name to rely on. According to stakeholders, the Singapore government is proactive about protecting IP and conducts adequate legal enforcement, especially compared to some other parts of the APAC region.
- Convenience: Singapore’s small size, which some might assume is a hindrance, eases business relationships by providing close proximity to potential partners and service providers. This can have a force-multiplying effect by allowing various stakeholders and technical experts to more easily collaborate on joint projects for a client. As Dominique Kull, co-founder of SGProtein, told us, “Singapore is such a central hub, many of the big food manufacturers and companies are here. I can visit suppliers, customers, a handful of them in the same day by just going up and down a single building.”
- International appeal: Interviewees told us that Singapore not only provides a robust local talent pool, but also serves as an attractive hub for bringing in foreign talent. Furthermore, the “Made in Singapore” label carries a certain amount of cachet globally due to its perceived association with high quality and standards—no doubt driven in part by a respected food certification system and mature export regulatory framework. Some stakeholders told us that they are specifically incorporating Singapore into their alternative protein production process because they want the “Made in Singapore” seal on their exported products.
Beyond these appealing attributes, the most common thread among regional plant-based meat industry stakeholders is the confidence they have in Singapore’s long-term role as an R&D and regional product development hub. However, interviewees were also clear-eyed about the fact that increasing plant-based meat demand and expectations of fulfilling ever larger production volumes to service the broader Asia Pacific region will eventually require expanding production to other nearby markets with more land and lower production costs, with Thailand and Malaysia as notable examples.
Similarly, HME is reliant on cold chain transport and storage requirements—in contrast to LME-based products, which can be sold in shelf-stable form at ambient temperatures. As applications of HME increase, production will inevitably need to expand to additional countries in the region to limit these transport costs and service growing markets.
“Singapore has for a long, long time been considered a global business hub due to its access to talent, connectivity, ease of doing business, and access to capital. More recently, Singapore has set itself to become a hub specifically for the food tech sector, making it even more attractive, with access to [multinational corporations] and research and development centers. All of that comes on top of being a great test market, with the highest level of global players, a great gastronomy scene, and an educated population that is becoming more aware of sustainability and the impact of our food choices in our environment.”
Future demand considerations
In assessing the future trajectory of the plant-based meat sector—both in Singapore and the broader APAC region—it is important to put the industry’s progress in context.
Plant-based meat market penetration across Asia Pacific as of 2020—measured as a percentage of total meat sales—was very small (0.053 percent) and only slightly higher in Singapore specifically (0.056 percent). For comparison, according to GFI’s State of the Industry Report: Plant-Based Meat, Eggs, and Dairy report, in the U.S., plant-based meat accounted for 1.4 percent of total meat sales in 2020, which is 26 times higher than APAC on a percentage basis.
|Location||Total meat sales volume 2020 (000 metric tons)^||Plant-based meat sales volume 2020 (metric tons)#||Plant-based meat market share of total meat sales volume 2020 (%)|
Plant-based meat market penetration, as compared to conventional meat
However, Asia Pacific also holds the distinction of being the fastest-growing region in the world for alternative proteins, as measured by rising investment figures. These increased investment totals have been driven, in part, by projections of soaring consumer demand for plant-based meat, which could climb by as much as 200 percent in select markets like China and Thailand between 2020 and 2025.
Even if such substantial growth occurs and the industrial-scale infrastructure and services outlined in our APAC Alternative Protein Ecosystem Database are running on all cylinders, there is no reason to believe that demand would then taper off, because the reservoir of consumers in Asia who are curious or open-minded about alternative proteins is extraordinarily deep. Indeed, when multinational public-opinion research consultancy firm GlobeScan surveyed 27,000 people in dozens of countries, more than 50 percent of all participants from Vietnam, China, India, and Thailand answered that—if taste and cost are equal—they want their meat to come from plants, not animals.
Such an unprecedented and dramatic escalation in meat market penetration would constitute a seismic societal shift, potentially delivering windfalls to stakeholders at all levels. It would also virtually assure that despite Singapore’s early lead in the sector, there will still be ample opportunities for other nations and B2B stakeholders to follow The Lion City’s shining example.
^Total meat sales calculated as sum of Euromonitor ‘meat and processed meat and seafood’ categories.
#Calculated as one percent of Euromonitor ‘meat substitute’ category to exclude tofu which represents 99 percent of meat substitute data for the APAC region. This data modification follows the methodology employed in the GFI Plant-Based Meat, Egg and Dairy State of the Industry 2020 (page 47) following consultation with Euromonitor.
***There are 11 locations defined as being within the Asia Pacific region for Euromonitor data purposes: mainland China, Hong Kong SAR, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Source: Euromonitor Passport, GFI analysis.
GFI APAC would like to thank Innovate 360 and the Feed 9 Billion partner network for their support on this research project. We would also like to thank GFI APAC fellow Ignacio Vargas, whose invaluable contributions made this initiative possible.