Home Arts & Leisure Making plant-based meat delicious and accessible

Making plant-based meat delicious and accessible

NutriAsia brings in Indonesian startup Green Rebel

HOW can Filipinos be encouraged to stick to plant-based or healthy diets? Two things: make plant-based options delicious and accessible.

If we’re going by Indonesian brand Green Rebel’s cooking demonstration, those requirements are being fulfilled in the Philippines. Instead of flavorless alternatives typically made for Western palates, Southeast Asian delights like rendang, Korean barbecue, and Thai green curry are now on the market.

And rightfully so, given that the global vegan food market was valued at $26.16 billion in 2021 and is projected to grow to $61.35 billion by 2028, according to Fortune Business Insights.

“It may have started in the Western countries, but here there are vegans, vegetarians, flexitarians. It’s also a vast-growing market among young ones,” said Mario B. Mendoza, Jr., NutriAsia’s business development head.

During an event on March 20 at Apartment 1B in Bonifacio Global City, the condiments manufacturer and distributor officially launched their partnership with plant-based food startup Green Rebel.

Max Mandias, a co-founder of Green Rebel, kicked off their expansion in the Philippines by demonstrating how to prepare two of their latest ready-to-cook offerings: the Indonesian rendang curry, and the Korean-style barbecue.

The fibrous texture of the soy-and-mushroom mix, imitating the chewy and juicy quality of meat, impressed the media that attended the launch. In the rendang, it was able to capture the flavors of the iconic dish, whereas the barbecue slices were soft and tender yet filling.

Mr. Mandias explained that Green Rebel’s cooking technology, borne from Indonesia-based manufacturing and product development, aims for food “that can blend well with any sauce, a crucial element in many Asian cuisines.”

In terms of the partnership, he said: “NutriAsia is more the expert on Filipino flavors and sauces while we have the expertise to create the plant-based alternatives.” A Filipino dish, perhaps adobo or kare-kare or sisig, will eventually be added to the ready-to-cook options.

Green Rebel products have 50% less saturated fat, 30% fewer calories, and zero cholesterol compared to traditional meat products. As demonstrated, those with a busy lifestyle can prepare a delicious meal in under 10 minutes.

The frozen products were also tested by the chefs of Apartment 1B, who brought out plant-based burgers for the media to try. The burgers were tasty and much like the real thing.

“We’ve built an innovation pipeline or roadmap with NutriAsia to launch gradually in the market,” Mr. Mandias said during the meal. “They’re the ones who selected the seven to eight products that will work in the Philippines.”

He added that the beef slices, for example, were chosen because they could be used in local tapa dishes. “It’s not all just burgers and chicken.”

Mr. Mendoza told BusinessWorld after the launch that distributing (and investing in) Green Rebel is part of NutriAsia’s bid to expand their portfolio.

“This is part of our ongoing thrust to move from the side of the plate to the center of the plate, and what better way to do it than with this?” he said. “Offering plant-based meats is environment-friendly and sustainable.”

While the company is thankful for the stability their condiments brought during the pandemic, Mr. Mendoza said that it is now time to grow. “Consumption of our existing products has been high, but of course we want a bigger part. This is the first step in our center-of-the-plate offerings, vegan and non-vegan.”

Green Rebel’s shelf-stable products — Indonesian Rendang Curry, Blackpepper Steak Bites, Korean-style BBQ Slices, and Thai Green Curry — will be available in select Robinsons, Landmark, and The Marketplace branches. Meanwhile, frozen products — Steak, Beefless Bites, Crispy Fried Chick’n and Rybs — will be available through NutriAsia foodservice accounts.

Soon, they will all be available across the country and through e-commerce platforms Shopee and Lazada.

Mr. Mandias told BusinessWorld that they are sure they can make a mark in the Philippines. “Our products are optimized to be used in any cooking, from sauces to satays to soups. We’re trusted by multinational brands like Ikea, Starbucks, Dominoes, and Air Asia, to provide sustainable meals.

“We will bring the same kind of energy to the Philippines,” he said. — Brontë H. Lacsamana