Extrusion research facility

An Eldorado for food innovators

Plant-based proteins show no sign of slowing down in their quest to conquer food markets across the globe. Southeast Asia is no exception, and Singapore is leading the way as a fast-paced, international hub for innovation and collaboration in the food industry. With their recently opened Protein Innovation Centre, Givaudan and Bühler are perfectly suited and situated to test and scale plant-based food innovations in close collaboration with start-ups, established food producers, and university researchers.

  

The global meat market is experiencing fundamental changes. While the growing middle class in emerging markets will continue to drive demand for conventional meat, its worldwide share will drop to 72 percent by 2030 amid rising demand for meat alternatives, according to the management consulting firm A.T. Kearney. Plant-based products are expected to boost to a market share of around 18 percent in 2030. The main reasons for this substantial change in consumer behavior are health and environmental concerns, and alternatives are becoming tastier and more sustainable as more players enter the fast-growing market. While these developments are a prime example of how consumer demand drives supply, a look at Singapore offers insights into how governments can contribute to the acceleration of food trends. 

 

Ribbon-cutting ceremony at the PIC opening: Alex Ward, APAC Head of Regional Innovation, Givaudan; Monila Kothari, APAC (Asia Pacific) President, Givaudan Taste & Wellbeing; Alvin Tan, Singapore Minister of State for Trade & Industry (MTI) and Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY); Ian Roberts, CTO Bühler, and Adrien Beauvisage, Head of Region Southeast Asia & Oceania at Bühler. Ribbon-cutting ceremony at the PIC opening: Alex Ward, APAC Head of Regional Innovation, Givaudan; Monila Kothari, APAC (Asia Pacific) President, Givaudan Taste & Wellbeing; Alvin Tan, Singapore Minister of State for Trade & Industry (MTI) and Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY); Ian Roberts, CTO Bühler, and Adrien Beauvisage, Head of Region Southeast Asia & Oceania at Bühler.

Singapore has set itself ambitious targets with its 30 by 30 initiative. The city-state aims to produce 30 percent of its food in 2030 – from farm to fork. Currently, Singapore imports 90 percent of its food according to the Singapore Food Agency (SFA), which is not surprising given its small area of only 728 square kilometers and lack of arable land. “If the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything about global supply chains, it’s that they can be disrupted in a heartbeat. The Singaporean government has long realized that and wants to protect its citizens against shortages caused by declines in yield due to climate change,” says Adrien Beauvisage, Head of Region Southeast Asia & Oceania at Bühler. “This initiative combined with Southeast Asia’s openness to new products is the perfect breeding ground for Singapore as the hotbed for food innovation.”

 

The Singaporean government has long realized that global supply chains can be interrupted in a heartbeat and wants to protect its citizens against shortages caused by declines in yield due to climate change.

Adrien Beauvisage, Head of Region Southeast Asia & Oceania at Bühler

Serving a bigger purpose

But where does this openness come from? On one hand, traditional Southeast Asian ingredients such as tofu or tempeh are obviously not as exotic to local consumers as they might be for European or North American consumers. On the other hand, Singapore in particular has a rich history as a hub for international trade, including spices and other goods. “Whenever new food trends would arise and global trade would pick up, Singaporeans were sure to get a taste of it,” Beauvisage explains. Today, Singapore is changing the game. With its 30 by 30 initiative, the government not only aims to increase the city-state’s food security but also to establish Singapore as the center for global food innovation. That’s just one of many reasons Givaudan, the global leader in taste and wellbeing, and Bühler opened their Protein Innovation Centre (PIC) at Givaudan’s Woodlands site in Singapore in April 2021.

Samples of extruded plant-based meat alternatives.

The aim is clear and perfectly in tune with the SFA’s targets. “Through the Protein Innovation Centre, we aim to create an ecosystem that supports start-ups and food businesses in an environment of co-creation. The Centre will provide them with access to the expertise, networks, and technology needed to create authentic plant-based protein alternatives that meet consumer needs and expectations,” said Monila Kothari, APAC (Asia Pacific) President, Givaudan Taste & Wellbeing, in the wake of the opening ceremony.

The fact that Alvin Tan, Singapore’s Minister of State for Trade & Industry (MTI) and Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) attended the event highlights the importance of the PIC in Singapore. To Ian Roberts, Chief Technology Officer at Bühler, the PIC is a symbol of the importance of collaborative innovation to tackle some of the most urgent issues we’re facing. “Sustainably feeding a projected population of 10 billion people by 2050 is a challenge that cannot be solved alone. We are highly aware of the need to collaborate if we are to limit climate change to 1.5°C by 2030, while providing nutrition to our growing population. In the Protein Innovation Centre we combine with a like-minded partner to develop regionally relevant, great-tasting products on scalable industrial technology, providing a boost to the sustainable protein industry in Asia, home to half of the world’s population.”

Adding speed and agility to the mix

Satya Dwi Putra is an Extrusion Technologist at Bühler and has been at the PIC almost every day since Bühler began setting up its processing technology at Givaudan’s Woodlands site. He is responsible for customer trials at the PIC and experiences the many benefits it offers on a daily basis. “Before we had the PIC, Bühler would fly customers to our nutrition application lab in Uzwil, Switzerland, where they could test recipes that they already had in mind on a large scale of up to 500 kilograms per hour. Here at the PIC, we can try different raw materials and flavors together with customers and Givaudan on a much smaller scale, like establishing a proof of concept, and making sure the recipe is scalable,” he explains. This adds agility and flexibility to the creation of new varieties, something that whets the appetite of both start-ups and big players in the food industry. “We’re currently running trials with SG Proteins, a Singapore-based contract manufacturing platform for meat analogs. The PIC is fully booked until the end of August for trials, which is perfect for us to learn from each other and adjust our workflows. After that, we’re starting trials with a multinational trading company of pulses, flour, and other grains whose goal it is to start creating their products using our technology for wet extrusion,” says Dwi Putra.

 

At the heart of the Protein Innovation Centre is Bühler’s twin-screw extruder.

Catering to local tastes

The variety of plant-based meat alternatives in Asia is already astonishing – from prawns to chicken and beef to name but a few. “Demand for locally sourced foods is increasing, and with that comes an appetite for plant-based products that mimic traditional Asian meat recipes such as Thai Pad Krapow, Vietnamese Banh Mi, or Hainanese ‘Chicken’ Rice. The only limiting factor is a lack of imagination when it comes to bringing new products to the market. To me, that’s the stark contrast to previous food trends such as fast food, which originated in the US and swept across the globe with the exact same recipes in every country as their secret for success,” explains Beauvisage. 

 

Satya Dwi Putra, Extrusion Technologist at Bühler Satya Dwi Putra, Extrusion Technologist at Bühler

This localism is a key driver for innovation in the plant-based meat industry, and the trend has certainly accelerated due to the coronavirus pandemic. “Here in Southeast Asia, we see new products on the shelves every week. That’s the level and speed of disruption happening right now that brings both newcomers and established businesses to the Protein Innovation Centre,” says Beauvisage. 

Just about any recipe can be tested at the PIC. “Together with Givaudan, we agreed that every month, each of us will run the Centre for two weeks. But since we both contribute with our know-how in trials, usually everyone is involved,” explains Dwi Putra. “The most challenging but exciting part is when new flavors are added and the consistency of the raw materials changes. That’s when our processing expertise comes into play to find the right mixture, temperature, and pressure to create new products.”

 

Every day I learn something new from our colleagues at Givaudan, and I get the unique opportunity to see the food industry through the lens of driven and innovative partners.

Satya Dwi Putra, Extrusion Technologist at Bühler

All the right ingredients

Now that the Protein Innovation Centre is running at full steam despite restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, the question is what’s next for this epicenter of food innovation. “The real beauty about working in the food business is that change and innovation are ever-present,” says Dwi Putra as he prepares the extruder for an upcoming trial. “We’re in talks with Singapore Polytechnic to create modules on extrusion for their planned courses on plantbased proteins. The PIC will be the part of their studies where researchers and students can apply their knowledge and carry out scientific research.” 

Dwi Putra is excited about the future and looks forward to welcoming like-minded food enthusiasts to create healthy, tasty, and sustainable plant-based foods. “Every day I learn something new from our colleagues at Givaudan, and I get the unique opportunity to see the food industry through the lens of driven and innovative partners. This not only helps me grow both personally and professionally, but I can also bring these insights into Bühler and help develop our process solutions and service offerings further. This open exchange to achieve a common goal is the essence of the Protein Innovation Centre, and I couldn’t be happier to be part of it,” he says, smiling. With its people at the core, its network of partners and its perfect location, the Protein Innovation Centre has all the right ingredients to become the hub for food innovation beyond Singapore and Southeast Asia.

 

Welcome to the Protein Innovation Centre of Givaudan and Bühler.
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