Agrocorp launches HerbY-Cheese to positive reception

By Agatha Wong

Agrocorp International (Agrocorp) has launched HerbY-Cheese, Singapore’s first plant-based, nut-free cheese range, under its consumer brand, HerbYvore. The launch event was graced by the Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth, Alvin Tan, with members of the media and Singapore-based restauranteurs and chefs in attendance as well.

A three-course sampler using the HerbY-Cheese Cheddar, Mozzarella, and Just Like Parme products showcased the range’s flexibility and flavour across a variety of applications. It included an arancini with a soft, melted HerbY-Cheese Mozzarella centre; a cheesy mushroom medley quiche topped with roasted edamame and freshly grated HerbY-Cheese Just Like Parme; and a chocolate mousse with a touch of HerbY-Cheese Cheddar.

The launch event was well-attended with guests from the media and food and beverage related industries (Image: Keng Photography/Tan Eng Keng, courtesy of SIT)

The development and commercialisation HerbY-Cheese product range was made possible through collaborative research in sustainable plant protein extraction between Agrocorp and the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT). In SIT’s food labs, Agrocorp’s food scientists worked on product development and received relevant support to manufacture prototypes at pilot scale at the FoodPlant – a pilot production plant jointly established by SIT, Enterprise Singapore, and JTC.

In her opening speech, Susanna Leong, associate professor, and vice-president of applied research at SIT said: “We are happy to support Agrocorp in scaling up lab prototypes for market validation through our subsidiary, FoodPlant, a shared food production facility. FoodPlant makes available production rooms and food processing equipment that can help companies develop and market-test small batches of their products in a cost-effective way, before scaling up to full production. This helps companies to defray initial capital investment costs for early-stage innovation.”

“Agrocorp has been very innovative and inspiring, and the fact that we are working on projects through an open innovation platform allows us to have serendipitous moments facilitated by the staff being here with our students,” added Leong in a subsequent interview with Food & Beverage Asia. “There has been a constant exchange of conversations, cross pollination of ideas on how we can do more and do better. 

From left to right: Bernard Nee, deputy president of industry and community at SIT; Lee Pak Sing, assistant CEO of trade and connectivity at Enterprise Singapore; associate professor Susanna Leong, vice president of applied research at SIT; Vishal Vijay, director of strategic investments at Agrocorp International; Alvin Tan, Minister of State, Ministry of Trade and Industry and Vijay Iyengar, chairman and managing director, Agrocorp International (Image: Keng Photography/Tan Eng Keng, courtesy of SIT)

When Food & Beverage Asia first interviewed Lena Tan, head of marketing and business development at HerbYvore, she shed light on the company’s experiences and journey in creating a plant-based product range that appealed to current consumer demands and preferences. For her, the launch is a culmination of the team’s efforts, and a step towards promoting the plant-based lifestyle and its benefits for the environment.

She shared: “We’re proud of the team because it’s been very hard work, and we’re also very thankful. There has been a lot of commitment leading up to this launch, and to a certain extent, we are bringing our team and consumers on journey to understand the impact of plant-based food on our health, and the health of the planet. We hope to inspire more consumers to consider plant-based products, because even switching out one meal to plant-based a day can make a huge difference. And I think what we want to showcase at today’s launch is that our comfort foods can be made plant-based and still be yummy.”

Nur Syafa’at Muhammad Bin Mohamed Salleh, food technologist at Agrocorp International (third from right) showcases the cream cheese prototype while FoodHatch lab tour attendees taste the ingredient sample (Image: Keng Photography/Tan Eng Keng, courtesy of SIT)

The R&D collaboration between Agrocorp and SIT explores more efficient ways to extract plant proteins, such as exploring the use of enzymes to extract plant proteins and using less water to extract plant proteins. These plant proteins will then serve as ingredients in HerbYvore’s plant-based foods formulations, as per the HerbY-Cheese product range, with more to come. The same plant protein can be used to supply to other plant-based food manufacturers, allowing Agrocorp to support the growth of the plant-based sector. This is in respect of Agrocorp’s joint venture with Megmilk Snow Brand to set up a factory to manufacture plant-protein (with a focus on soy-free plant protein); the factory is targeted to be operational in late 2025.

Moving forward, Agrocorp has also set its sights on the retail scene along with building their sales in the B2B market. That said, the next immediate step for them would be scaling their production and ensuring that they are able to keep with demand. This will see them moving beyond the FoodPlant pilot facility to increase production volume, and attaining halal certification for a wider range of consumers to target dining establishments and consumers.

In terms of educating and building a platform, Agrocorp has also reached out actively to social media influencers (of both plant-based and non-plant-based lifestyles), showcasing the use of HerbY-Cheese and its Plant Protein Block as a plant-based ingredient through cooking classes held in collaboration with a local chef.

Ultimately, the brand will continue its focus on bringing sustainable nutrition to consumers. Besides expanding the range of HerbY-Cheeses, the team is also prototyping a cream cheese product at their labs, with potential ideas for a plant-based mayonnaise as well.

“There is a lot that we can look at. HerbYvore will continue to innovate using the soy-free plant protein extracted from Agrocorp’s upstream operations to explore producing more innovative plant-based food options that are sustainably nutritious, yet hits the right notes for taste,” concluded Tan.