S’pore Startup Next Gen Compares Beyond Meat with Plant-Based Chicken

Andre Menezes first tried plant-based foods in 2017 in Singapore, as he began to dabble in the famous meat-based veggie burger by Impossible Foods. It was a bite to remember, he said KRASIA.

As a meat eater, he was very impressed with not only the crunchy and tasty flavor of the fake beef burger, but also the enduring aspect of the plant-based meat. Plants need much less clean water and land to thrive than animals.

He clearly knew this, having spent six years working as a director of sales and operations planning for BRF – one of the world’s largest poultry exporters – in his home country, Brazil.

Exporting poultry is an extremely difficult business from the point of view of being very inefficient. It takes a lot of work and resources, including water, soil, and time for animals to grow to the point where they are ready to be slaughtered.

Animals are not bred to be bred on this massive scale, the meat trade is not sustainable.

– Andre Menezes, co-founder of Next Gen

Total annual greenhouse gas emissions from livestock accounted for about 14.5% of all human emissions in 2013, based on a Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) study. Beef contributed 41 percent of these emissions.

Grow a plant-based meat business

In 2016, Menezes moved to Singapore to work for a Joint Venture (JV) between BRF and Singapore’s largest meat importer, distributor and processor, SATS.

The JV focused on innovative and sustainable food solutions, and after only a year and a half in the business, Menezes was given the role of CEO to make the business profitable but also ‘well prepared for it’. to come up”.

Menezes began exploring plant-based meat products in the United States and Europe, which saw him meet Timo Recker, the founder of German alternative meat producer LikeMeat, in late 2019.

The two like-minded businessmen instantly clicked and started talking about making a plant-based meat business together.

I’m so passionate about plant-based foods and believe that will be the future, but at the same time I was running a business where 95% of the businesses involved meat.

– Andre Menezes, co-founder of Next Gen

However, things quickly changed.

In September 2019, SATS acquired BRF’s 49% stake in the JV for S $ 17 million (US $ 12.7 million) and renamed the company Country Foods.

In March 2020, Menezes decided to step down as CEO at Country Foods. Shortly before Menezes resigned in February 2020, Recker sold 51% of LikeMeat’s shares to Foods United, which was later renamed Livekindly.

Menezes and Recker decided to join forces in October to present a brand new plant project, Next Gen.

“I always wanted to be an entrepreneur,” Menezes said.

Plant-Based Kung Pao Chicken Prepared With Next Gen Ingredients / Image Credit: Next Gen

The startup was launched with a capitalization of US $ 2.2 million, provided by the outputs of Recker of LikeMeat.

Within four months of its operations, the company raised US $ 10 million in seed funding from investors such as Temasek, K3 Ventures, NX-Food, FEBE Ventures, Blue Horizon and EDB New Ventures, the branch of Singapore’s Economic Development Board.

Vegetable chicken: a versatile ingredient

Next Gen has made its foray into the market with TiNDLE, a plant-based alternative to chicken thighs.

The product is composed of water, soy, wheat, oat fiber, coconut oil and methylcellulose, a culinary binder for the herbal pancake, as well as Lipi, a fat developed by plants which helps mimic the smell and browning of chicken.

Plant-based chicken is available at select Singapore restaurants including Three Buns Quayside, The Prive Group, 28 HongKong Street, Bayswater Kitchen, and The Goodburger, among others, starting March 18.

The company also plans to introduce its products to supermarkets soon, as it plans to expand into two undisclosed neighboring Asian cities, according to Menezes.

He believes versatility and cooking are the keys to making plant-based chicken stand out from the crowd.

“From a consumer perspective, chicken is a combination of three things: fiber, taste and aroma. This is why chicken thighs taste better than chicken breast.

To achieve the right taste, aroma and texture, Next Gen applies two technologies, Menezes explained.

The first is a processing technique called extrusion, which gives vegetable meats their texture. The other technology allows the Maillard reaction, or also called “browning reaction”, through a mixture of Lipi and other elements of plant origin.

“The right proportion of fat can connect to the fiber, which then is the highlight of the experience,” Menezes said.

Although Next Gen is a late entrant into the plant-based market, a sector currently dominated by American manufacturers Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, the sector is still immature and has great potential.

The global plant-based meat market size is expected to reach US $ 35.4 billion by 2027, with a compound annual growth rate of 15.8% from 2020 to 2027, according to data from Polaris Market Research.

Menezes believes that plant-based chicken, in particular, will be the preferred ingredient for people on a plant-based diet.

People are more curious to try a new chicken recipe, which is very different from cooking a beef steak where consumers could only choose the degree of doneness.

Plant-based chicken can be cooked in any style that people want, whether it’s Chinese, stir-fry chicken, or Indian curry chicken.

– Andre Menezes, co-founder of Next Gen

Next Gen aims to close a Series A funding round by 2022, which will help the company with its plans to expand into other markets, including the United States, China, Brazil and Europe .

“Our biggest competitor is chicken. The biggest challenge is to prove to consumers that their individual choice of food can have an extremely important impact, and to make them understand that the sustainability angle is so important and relevant, ”said Menezes.

This article is part of KrASIA’s “Startup Stories” series, where the KrASIA authors interview founders of tech companies in South and Southeast Asia.

Featured Image Credit: Next Gen

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