Vegan pork in Hong Kong, impossible burgers in Singapore: how investors grew fat on Asia’s fad for mock meat


    Burgers that bleed beet juice, chicken strips with no chicken: a multibillion-dollar industry wants Asia’s meat-eaters to embrace plant-based alternatives

    Fears for health and the environment are fuelling the trend, but chew on this: why eat mock meat when the real thing is half the price – and twice as tasty?


Gigi Choy, South China Morning Post 

9 Mar, 2019


Hong Kong entrepreneur David Yeung is encouraging people to eat less meat to help save the earth. The trouble is, too many love their meat, especially pork.


Now he thinks he has something that might persuade them – a meat substitute which he says looks, feels and tastes like the real thing.


Chefs have begun using his product, Omnipork, to turn out Shanghainese soup dumplings, sweet and sour pork, as well as tan tan noodles, gyozas and meatballs.


“From vegans to meat eaters, professionals and home chefs have been amazed by Omnipork’s versatility, applicability, and ease-of-use in all sorts of cooking. They love how it enables them to make some of the most common Asian comfort and family dishes,” says Yeung, one of the investors in a US$2.5 million venture to develop a pork substitute in 2016.


Pork accounts for nearly 40 per cent of global meat intake, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) says. China is currently the world’s largest pork market, representing around half of global demand, according to a 2017 report by DBS Bank.

The FAO projects that Asian countries such as China, the Philippine, Thailand and Vietnam will continue to increase pork consumption on a per capita basis.


Vegetarianism is long established across Asia, and “temple cuisine” features mock meat made from wheat-based gluten and prepared to look like fish, shrimp, and meat. To many non-vegetarians who enjoy their meat, however, mock meat is just fake meat. Many will not touch the stuff.


Environmental advocate Yeung, 42, the co-founder and CEO of social venture Green Monday, says his pork substitute is made from shiitake mushrooms, soy protein, pea protein and rice to achieve a more meaty texture and flavour.


He is part of a new wave of entrepreneurs and investors in Asia who are in an R&D race to create meat substitutes that can convince meat eaters to switch to plant-based alternatives.


In the last six years, they have pushed out beef, chicken, pork and seafood substitutes that can be turned into everything from hamburgers to fish fillet and Hainanese chicken rice.


Their efforts tap into concerns over food security, the environment, outbreaks of animal diseases such as Avian flu and African swine fever and questions about how to feed the world’s burgeoning population.


A recent report in the medical journal The Lancet says that adopting a diet with more plant-based foods and fewer animal-source foods and improving food production will “improve health and avoid potentially catastrophic damage to the planet”.


Michelle Teodoro, global food science and nutrition analyst at London-based market research firm Mintel, says the plant-based meat trend is happening at a time when people are also concerned about the environmental impact of raising and eating animals, and horrified by the mistreatment of animals reared through industrial farming.


“The Asian market, with its big population, growing middle class and increasing meat consumption, has investors licking their lips with anticipation,” she says.


For enterprises with the right new fake meat products, there is big money to be made.


The global meat substitutes market was worth US$4.1 billion in 2017 and is expected to nearly double in value to US$7.5 billion by 2025, with the Asia-Pacific region projected to grow at the highest rate in terms of value (9.4 per cent) from 2018 to 2025, according to Allied Market Research.