SINGAPORE ADM’s new state-of-the-art Plant-based Innovation Lab in Singapore to cater to Asian palate June 2021
 

On 22 April, ADM celebrated the opening of its new cutting-edge, plant- based innovation lab at its existing Biopolis research hub in Singapore. The new lab will develop next-level, on-trend and nutritious products to meet growing food and beverage demand in the Asia Pacific region.

The new facility features a combination of experts in proteins and texturing ingredients, coupled with flavor specialists, allowing ADM to quickly and efficiently create tailor-made solutions for the Asian consumer palate. This lab gives ADM the ability to test flavors, textures, fats and binding characteristics in-house and accelerate product development for customers. Additionally, the lab can provide medium-scale sampling through a variety of forming and freezing capabilities to support market evaluation of new products and solutions.

According to Marie Wright, Chief Global Flavorist and President, Creation, Design & Development for ADM, the lab will not only help ADM to capture key insight and learnings to help drive exciting new solutions for the Asian market, but also help it to better service customers around the world looking to incorporate Asian flavors and preferences into their latest plant-based food and beverage innovations.

The ADM Biopolis research hub in Singapore offers a wide range of capabilities, including a food and flavor analytic lab; a beverage and dairy applications lab and pilot plant; a bakery and confectionery lab; a meat and savory lab; a sweet and savory creation lab; sensory evaluation facilities and a customer innovation center in addition to the new plant- based innovation lab.

ADM Human Nutrition Technical Innovation Centre occupies a total area of 11,603 sq.ft and employs nearly 150 people in Singapore, representing 5% of its more than 3,000 employees across the wider Asia Pacific region.

AFBR has recently interviewed Mr Dirk Oyen, Vice President and General Manager Southeast Asia, Human Nutrition, ADM to gain more in-depth information on the new plant-based lab as well as recent trends and developments relating to plant-based meat/products. The following are excerpts of the interview with him:

 

What are the 3 major role/functions of the newly launched plant-based innovation lab in Singapore ?

Consumers are increasingly looking for plant-based alternatives that possess the right taste, texture, flavour and aroma to incorporate into their diets. By combining protein, texture and savory flavor expertise with immense plant-based application knowledge, the plant-based innovation lab will allow for rapid solution creation through testing of key sensory and functional elements of plant-based applications.

Through this plant-based innovation lab, we are able to develop innovative plant-based products and solutions that are tailored for different companies and their target audiences. We create plant- based meat and beverage alternatives in convenient formats and culinary innovations that better fit Asian consumer lifestyles and preferences in Asia Pacific (APAC) and around the world.

As an end-to-end solutions partner, we help companies source everything from raw ingredients and innovating plant-based meat alternatives, to scaling up and converting existing infrastructure or manufacturing capabilities into one that is suitable for their new needs.

Why is Singapore chosen as the location for the Plant-based Innovation Lab ?

Asia is home to 60% of the world’s population, and Singapore is an important hub for innovation due to a multitude of factors. The new lab seeks to anticipate market trends and insights and provide timely solutions that address the nutritional challenges of changing taste and preferences not only in Singapore, but across the APAC region and around the world.

As Singapore is often considered a regional hub, we are strategically placed to provide counsel, testing and innovation development to many countries in APAC and beyond.

 

With the launch of many ingredient labs related to plant-based space in Asia, what makes the one at ADM unique from its other counterparts in this region ?

One which sets ADM apart from others is its long history in the plant-based meat and beverage alternatives space spanning over 75 years. With significant growth in consumer interest about plant- based meat and dairy alternatives, there is a large potential to fill this demand. Our plant-based innovation lab seeks to create plant-based offerings in convenient formats and culinary innovations that better fit Asian consumer lifestyles and preferences in this region.

To help customers succeed, we provide high value protein ingredients that are powered by an unmatched portfolio that is safe and reliable from farm to fork. Our R&D experts know the mechanics of taste and functionality and how the ingredients work to help customers get successful products to the market quickly.

What is also unique about our offering is the technical expertise provided to customers by working closely with them side-by-side until we helped them achieve a product that consumers love.

We also have the enhanced capabilities of providing customers scaling up capabilities, either by ensuring they have the correct infrastructure or quickly optimising their existing production lines to manufacture these products.

Name 3 major areas where the new food lab could support budding plant-based enterpreneurs/ventures or existing F&B manufacturers to expand into this category?

The plant-based innovation lab can quickly scale up and innovate various plant-based products and solutions that can be tailored for different companies and their target audiences and preferences.

The plant-based innovation lab will also give ADM the ability to test flavors, textures, fats and binding characteristics in-house and accelerate product development for F&B manufacturers.

Additionally, the lab can provide medium-scale sampling through a variety of forming and freezing capabilities to support market evaluation of new products and solutions. This is critical in ensuring that even when products are scaled up from the innovation lab, they remain of high quality and are consistent.

 

Which will be ADM priority segment in the new plant-based lab?

In APAC, the opportunities are near boundless. With consumers on the lookout for new products, there is an insatiable appetite for plant- based meat, beverage and dairy alternatives that suit their needs and preferences.

Hence, we have put in significant resources to ensure we are able to meet all types of requests and products, regardless of segments, across the board.

In recent years, several consumer groups have voiced health/ sustainability concerns over the contents (ingredients) of faux meat. How can ADM correct this concern?

On the contrary, many consumers are now experimenting with plant- based protein to meet their health and wellness, sustainability, food safety and convenience preferences. Presently, there is a growing demand for plant-based food and it is largely driven by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sustainable sourcing and traceability are also priorities for ADM. We understand that consumers are looking for products that are traceable and with easy-to-read ingredient labels, and our global supply chain of ingredients ensures that this demand is met.

For example, our new and cutting-edge satellite imaging technology allows unprecedented transparency into our supply chain. This innovation will help enable verification of our goal to achieve and report full traceability (100%) of our soy supply chains in Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay by 2022, including direct and indirect sourcing.

At ADM, we take natural products and transform them into a complete portfolio of ingredients and flavors. For example, our culinary pantry provides a range of plant-based solutions ranging from extracts that provide great taste, emulsifiers that provide the right texture to antioxidants that provide functional and nutrition benefits in a wide variety of food, drink and supplement applications.

On a separate note, AFBR also would like to add that with the ongoing African Swine Fever (ASF) that affect the pig herd population as well as the long history of bird flu (H5N8) affecting poultry across the globe, many consumers hope to make a gradual switch from meat consumption to plant-based food products. This is on top of consumer concerns over animal welfare and sustainable farming practices in this region.

 

The future for plant-based alternatives seems brighter than ever.What do you foresee the demand in 10 years from now ?

In the meat substitute category, consumers are already familiar with plant-based beef alternatives. We believe the future is bright as there is significant ‘pent-up’ demand for other newer plant-based meats like pork, chicken and seafood.

We are also seeing more interest and advancements in plant-based alternatives to shellfish, cheese and ready-to-eat (RTE) protein snacks.

Our global trends report found that in the next few years, consumers will be looking for: (1) healthier food choices (that naturally contain beneficial ingredients), (2) products that have a more healthy and positive impact on the environment, (3) secure supply, and (4) greater transparency in labelling and sourcing of food.

We are seeing much greater demand for food that is nutritious. This has spurred significant growth in nutrient-dense products, but flavor and color are also key factors in driving consumer preference.

 

In your opinion, how does plant-based meat alternative perform compared to other alternatives like lab grown cell- based meat and the traditional real meat?

Beyond applications, processes like fermentation and new technologies like 3D printing are spurring inventive creativity. Plant- based innovation is performing well but is only beginning, and the future holds many different techniques and applications as research increases and consumer acceptance grows.

Ultimately, we hope that plant-based meat alternatives occupy a segment in the market that diversifies consumers’ offerings. We hope to develop the industry as a whole that is complementary to what is already available, like for example the traditional meat and other meat alternatives and continue innovating products that meet consumer demands and preferences.

 
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