Disruption in Food Summit 2019 - Stem Cell Seafood and Alternate Proteins

Massive Opportunities in APAC Region

· Shared Value,Disruption,clean meat,plant-based protein,Sustainability


I recently had the pleasure of attending and speaking at the second Disruption in Food & Sustainability summit (DFSS) in Singapore. This event was held by the Centre for Responsible Futures.

Last year, the topics were quite broad in many different aspects of food disruption (highlights from last year). This year’s focus was around alternate proteins and trends in the industry, both globally and locally and how businesses can adapt and be ready for the change.

The keynote presentation was from Eat Lancet Commissioner. The commissioner shared the massive shift needed in global dietary patterns by 2050, to avoid catastrophic consequences for the planet.

While the challenge is huge, industry leaders, investors and innovators shared approaches to bring about better solutions sooner, with plant-based, cell-based and mycoproteins.

Government, institutions and businesses, both large and small, attended this sell-out event. There is a shift happening and it’s largely unseen. Those in the industry can feel it. This newsletter will share some of the major drivers behind it and how businesses can adapt to the change.

There is a shift happening, and it’s largely unseen. Those in the industry can feel it.

This post will share some of the major drivers behind it, the different types of alternate proteins, and finally how business can engage a wider audience by innovating what they measure.

The Why?

The Singapore Government Minister of Health and Environment, Dr Amy Khor, opened the event with their commitment to invest in urban farming, and alternate proteins. Currently, Singapore produces just 10% of their food needs. Singapore has set a goal to produce 30% of its consumption by 2030. The government also sees the significant opportunity in alternate protein exports in the Asian region. To accomplish this goal, the government has earmarked $144 million to enable the growth of these areas. This is a boom time for alternate meats made in Singapore.

Singapore wants to produce 30% of its own food by 2030, from 10% currently. There is an unwavering opportunity for plant-based, waste reducing and urban farming businesses in Singapore. - Bob Ratnarajah

Our Future - Eat Lancet Commission

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Eat Lancet Commissioner Rina Augustina set the scene and the challenges ahead of us.     Eat Lancet report was commissioned after two years of research from 37 leading doctors and scientists around the world, to understand the consequence of modern dietary patterns to public health and sustainability.   The report commissioned had one goal: ' To Achieve Planetary Health Diets for Nearly 10 Billion People By 2050' - Eat Lancet From the major goal, the first target was to determine what the food will be like on our plate looked like by 2050.
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You can see half the plate is full of fruit and vegetables. Just less than a quarter of the plate is for proteins, mainly from legumes and nuts. While the plate still does include a portion of meat and fish, this is a fraction of current standard western diet.   The findings are a massive shift from current food patterns. Eat Lancet will start spreading through government, institutions, and large FMCG industry. The report goes on to suggest we need to find better ways to raise yields from our current crops and drastically reduce the waste we produce, both at the supply chain as well as for the consumer.   But there is hope!  

3 Types of Alternate Proteins

As part of the alternate protein story, there are plant-based proteins, mycoproteins (fungi), and animal proteins.

For as long as humans have existed, much of the world has linked animals to our primary source of proteins.

Cell-Based Proteins


New technology is enabling animal cells to be grown in a lab. All the structure of the animal meat, without the animal

This brings me to the dazzling launch of Shiok Meats, the first cell-based seafood company in Singapore (& ANZ). Shiok means “enjoying” in the local language.

The media eagerly captured this as a first for the region. Shiok meats used parts of Quorn to develop a seafood dumpling dish – Siew Mai. Here’s the interview with the founders, Sandhya Sriram and Ka Yi Ling. [excuse the shaky video]

The 6 pieces cost a whopping $5000. Shiok Meats are looking to reduce the cost by 100 over the next 3 years. This was the first of the proto-types. The official launch is about 18 months away at high-end restaurants. They are looking to bring it to Australia too.

Elaine Siu from Good Food Institute APAC said that “It tastes like siew mai!”

Currently, there are no cell based meat companies based out of Australia. I have just met two entrepreneurs who are about to change this. Watch this space…

Plant-based & Myco Proteins

Plant-based proteins have been cultivated for thousands of years in East Asia, with tofu and tempeh. But the world is used to eating meat in the form of burgers, sausages and nuggets.


Its easier to change a man’s religion, than change his diet- Margaret mead

Or as Bill Gates highlighted in his Future of Food in 2013, “….I wouldn’t want to give up my hamburgers as my favourite food.”   So, to replicate burgers, sausages and nuggets, what if we mimic meat instead?   Enter Plant-based and Mycoproteins.  

Mycoprotein is made from fungi. Technically, it’s not plants nor animal. For those who are brought up in the UK will be well familiar with Quorn. A mycoprotein with all the ‘good benefits’of animal protein, without the saturated fats and the 'nasties'. Quorn has been around for 50 years and is an industry leader in the space.

In Singapore, Quorn has partnered with the 2nd largest chicken chain, to create Chickless, chicken nuggets. They are also looking to work with large commercial food companies to create tailored solutions for these providers.

Then we have the third type of alternate protein – which is completely plant-based.

This brings us to the two largest players who get a lot of worldwide media attention, Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat.

Impossible has the financial backing of the Singapore government, through Temasek Holdings. While Beyond Meat has investors that range from Bill Gates to Tyson Foods (the largest meat producer in the USA).

Both brands have launched in Singapore at high-end restaurants; Impossible at fine dining spaces and Beyond at venues like the Grand Hyatt.

In the alternate meat panel discussion, I was excited to hear the audacious goals of Impossible Burger; To eliminate animals in food technology by 2035. They are starting with the burger but have further plans for milk and other products too.   Interestingly, Impossible's target market are not vegans, but instead flexitarians.    

While these goals may seem daring, the animal consumption patterns of humans are leading to catastrophe. They ask a simple question - if we can make a better plant-based burger which mimics the taste of meat, with less than 1/10th of the environmental impact, why wouldn’t we?

Here is a screenshot of the Impossible Burger’s vs Beef Burgers, ecological impact.

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As mainstream businesses move to the vegan and plant-based space, this is a significant threat to existing plant-based & vegan businesses. After speaking to three of the Sydney vegan supermarkets, they are starting to feel it already with two of Australia’s largest supermarkets, Coles and Woolworths, growing their vegan range.

On the other hand, it’s an incredible opportunity for existing plant-based and vegan businesses readying themselves for the growth.

Chinese term for Crisis - Weixie Yu Jiyu - is the same as opportunity

Innovation - How to prepare your business for the change?

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I was on a panel discussion about the role of innovation across the green value chain.

I raised the point that the rise of plant-based foods is not just about food trends. Moreover, its the rise of the conscious consumer. To actively engage staff and the consumer, we have to innovate in what we measure and the impact we create.

Currently, we still use primarily a financial accounting measure to determine the success of a business and hope that all the other pillars are in place.

"In recent years business increasingly has been viewed as a major cause of social, environmental and economic problems. Companies are widely perceived to be prospering at the expense of the broader community” – Michael Porter (Harvard paper on Shared Value)

To actively engage staff and the consumer, 21st century businesses need to innovate in what we measure as a success of a business.

By measuring the Purpose, People, and Planet strategies as well as the traditional Profit measures, a business can stand out from the crowd.

Currently, we still use primarily a financial accounting measure to determine the success of a business and hope that all the other pillars are in place.
Can existing businesses re-position with Purpose? - It’s possible!

Here are two case studies of businesses which pivoted to be mission-based, Zambrero’s and Soul Burger. Both started as ‘normal’ businesses but then became mission-based. Zambrero’s is not plant-based, however, distributes a free plate of food for every meal sold. The CEO attributes much of the 750% growth to the business being purpose-based.

Soul Burger started as an ethical meat burger restaurant before moving to completely vegan. ad they communicate their social impact proposition clearly through all channels.

In the plant-based space, Fry’s Family Foods launched in the US by sharing the fact they saved 3.5 million animals last year by people buying their products – this is an impact piece.

These businesses have exceptional management, but their success is also due to being purpose-based and sharing their planetary impact.

By applying the Purpose, People and Planet strategies, the smaller purpose-based business can stand out from the crowd.

I like to share Flora and Fauna’s approach here. F&F is an online household goods store. They measure all their 4 Ps. Their values are stated and communicated, internally and externally. The planetary impact is measured using Bcorp, and this is visible to see by all.

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To give you an idea of their success, Flora and Fauna have just won the Best Small Independent E-retailer of the year by an industry body.


With the findings of the Eat Lancet Report, we are seeing the start of massive momentum towards the plant-based and vegan foods from major food businesses.

With rising Asian affluence at our doorstep, we have an growing affluent consumer base of 3 billion people, just in Asia alone.
This presents a great opportunity in different areas of food production, alternate proteins and food waste.
All types of alternate protein solutions are needed to accelerate the shift away from breeding and killing animals for protein, and climate catastrophe.
Existing plant-based & vegan businesses create a great impact. By better distilling their Purpose, People and Planet strategies, they have the opportunity to be a beacon in the industry and attract a large following.

This will be warmly embraced by the ethical consumer, the animals and the generations to follow us.