Creating a meat-free palate for all

Taste, price, localise.



Welcome to the era of meat-free diet, where traditional meat like pork, beef and chicken are now possible to be made from plants and designed to taste like meat. Beyond vegetarianism, these plant-based alternatives are targeted at meat-eating consumers, and are largely marketed as food for the health and well-being of the consumer as well as the environment.

There are several international campaigns like the World Meat Free Week and Meatless Monday to promote meat-free diets. The latter is a global movement started in 2003 that encourages consumers to reduce meat in their diet for their health and the health of the planet.

For the World Meat Free Week, the annual initiative aims to spotlight the importance of reducing meat intake for the sake of the planet. In its third edition, which took place from 15-21 Jun 2020, the campaign garnered more than 5,000 supporters pledging to give up meat for at least one meal during the week.

A Euromonitor International webinar revealed that 24% of surveyed global consumers are trying to cut down their meat intake, driving sales of global meat substitutes to reach US$19.5 billion in 2018.

David Hedin, consultant at Euromonitor International, commented: “Meat intake is mostly reduced by consumers trying to reinforce healthier eating habits and worrying about climate change. Growing attention to welfare for animals, farmers, societies and employees at large is also noticed among them.”

Titled The driving forces behind plant-based diets, the webinar identified the US, Russia and the UK with the highest increases in the share of consumers worrying about climate change. In India, Brazil and China, at 77%, 72% and 66% of respondents, respectively, most consumers try to have a positive environmental impact through their everyday actions.

Despite the global growth of meat substitutes sales and consumption, the meat industry is still expected to grow at a faster rate by 2023, according to Hedin. He also pointed out pricing and availability of meat substitutes as the two key factors holding back the penetration worldwide.

Rufino Tiam-Lee, Singapore CEO for Monde Nissin, acknowledged Hedin’s point on pricing, and added: “Besides price, there are three other primary food purchasing drivers – taste, convenience and accessibility. The secondary will be factors like benefits and sustainability.”

Monde Nissin is the owner of Quorn brand in Asia. Originated from the UK, Quorn aims to provide better protein while improving the well-being of people and planet. Its meat-substitute products are available in more than 22 countries, serving more than 5 billion meals worldwide.

He further suggested in giving Quorn products an Asian twist, and elaborated: “The challenge is how to create a good taste, put it into local cuisines, and make it as affordable as possible for consumers to purchase. Our role here is to work with food and beverage establishments to use Quorn and create different cuisines, for example, Malay, Indian and Chinese; and Singapore, with its multiracial society, places us in a very good position to achieve it.”

The choice of meat or meat-free, undoubtedly, lies at the crux of food and beverage businesses and consumers. Many food companies are looking to explore new production methods to increase the supply of plant-based meat to meet the demand for a growing population because, ultimately, the supply has to fulfilled before the possibility of lowering the prices. And with a reasonable price points and variety across different cuisines, consumers might then find plant-based meat an attractive option. 

Josephine Tan is editor for Food & Beverage Asia, which has been following the latest trends and developments in the food and beverage industry.