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Friday, Sep 24, 2021

‘Asian food is international food…’ OmniPork gears up for nationwide US launch of plant-based pork

‘Asian food is international food…’ OmniPork gears up for nationwide US launch of plant-based pork

Asian plant-based meat sensation OmniPork is gearing up for a nationwide retail and foodservice launch in the US market later this year after debuting in a handful of restaurants in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Honolulu to celebrate Earth Day.

Developed by OmniFoods - a food-tech company launched by Green Monday - OmniPork (launched in 2016) is focused on pork, the most widely-consumed meat in the world (ahead of poultry and beef).

Developed by a food science team in Canada, OmniPork grounds, strips, and luncheon meats can be seasoned, steamed, pan- or deep-fried, stuffed or crumbled for use in Asian-inspired dishes from Kung Pao (Spicy stir-fry) to Lumpiang Shanghai (Filipino-style spring rolls) and contain less saturated fat, fewer calories, and zero cholesterol compared to animal-based pork products.

Made using a proprietary blend of plant-based protein from non-GMO soy, peas, shiitake mushrooms and rice, OmniPork “has absolutely transformed the Asian plant-based food scene,”​ claimed OmniFoods founder David Yeung Yeung, who has set up a manufacturing base in Thailand but is developing additional sites in China.

‘Asian food is international food

It's still very early days, but it’s taken off like a rocket ship, said Yeung, who has struck deals with some of the biggest names in fast casual food: “We’re giving a whole new dimension and variety to the plant-based scene. We’re in McDonald's in Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou; we’re in 4,000 Starbucks in China; and we’ll be launching with IKEA in China, Hong Kong, and Thailand. We've also worked with Pizza Express in Asia.

“We’re in Macau, and we will be launching in Korea in a few weeks, and then more of mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines. After that we’re going to Indonesia and then Australia,” ​he told FoodNavigator-USA.

One day you’re eating a pizza, next day you are eating a burrito, and then you have sushi right? Or fried rice?”

So what’s the plan for the US market and how big is the Asian food scene in the US?

“Asian food is international food, just like Italian food,” ​said Yeung, who raised $70m in a round led by TPG’s The Rise Fund and Swire Pacific last year for Green Monday. “We all eat it. One day you’re eating a pizza, next day you are eating a burrito, and then you have sushi right? Or fried rice? Who doesn’t love a spring roll??


‘It’s incredibly versatile’

Rather than developing American staples such as bacon or hot dogs, OmniPork will initially focus on Asian-inspired dishes, where pork is often an ingredient, he said.

“In Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Thai cuisine, the meat usually soaks up the seasoning, so we deliberately created OmniPork to have a relatively bland flavor, so you can put it in Thai Spice, or Sichuan spice or, if you want to add more umami, you can just steam it. It’s incredibly versatile.

“We are working with a lot of Asian cuisines: Japanese, Korean, Thai, Chinese, Taiwanese, Vietnamese. If you think about Chinese restaurants for so many years they have only really had tofu ​[to create vegetarian or vegan options]. We’re giving them something that will work in gyoza and dim sum ​[steamed dumplings], Pad Thai, any dish."

He added: “Restaurants love the fact that we’re using something that’s being used by star chefs in their country of origin, Vietnam, Japan, Korea, and so on. They like that authenticity. So for example, we just launched in the UK at a top Chinese restaurant chain and their chefs know what’s happening in Asia and in Hong Kong and their counterparts there have been using it.”

The first retail SKUs will be pork grounds, strips and luncheon meat, but down the road OmniPork could make ready meals, he said: “In many parts of the world our ready meals are extremely well received. So whether it is dumplings, dim sum, some kind of stir fry noodles, those are SKUs that do very well, so in future we could work with US co-manufacturers, not just to produce the protein but also perhaps ready meals, but of course we’ll see how things go to start with!”


COVID has been kind of a catalyst’

So how do the purchase drivers compare in some of the different markets OmniFoods is targeting?

In some markets it’s about health, animal welfare, and the environment; in others it’s about food safety; in some it’s novelty, he said.

“When we started in 2012, talking about plant based and sustainability was like a foreign alien language in some markets. But in the last 18 months, there has been a huge rise of awareness in Asian countries and I think COVID has been kind of a catalyst about food safety and viruses, plus there’s the impact of African swine fever, which caused pork prices to double or even triple in some cases.”

'Young people are asking: Why hurt animals and why do so much damage to the environment?'

He added: “I think the overall prospects for the industry and the category are clearly very promising and it’s driven a lot by young people right? So many parents who are brought into plant-based because of their kids. Young people are asking: 'Why hurt animals and why do so much damage to the environment?'

“Ultimately, countries are also starting to realize that industrial-scale livestock farming is risky and there are​ [now credible] alternatives.”


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