“We expect plant-based products to gain more traction in Asia in the coming years”

Plant-based eating has been growing due to the increased awareness of its environmental and sustainability benefits, as well as concerns over mitigating global food insecurity. In addition to these concerns, OTS Holdings is looking to align itself with Singapore’s 2030 goal of producing 30 per cent of its nutritional needs locally with the launch of ANEW- a new alternative meat brand. OTS Holdings Limited is a Singapore-based branding and manufacturing group with a niche in the ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook meat products, now eyeing the global market for its 100 per cent plant-based proteins. Ong Bee Chip, Managing Director, OTS Holdings spoke to nuFFooDS Spectrum, about the company’s foray into the plant-based meat business and its future plans.

Could you talk about the investments and stakeholder relationships in bringing ANEW to the Asian market as a meat substitute?  Do you plan to expand to other Asian markets?

OTS Holdings is not new to the luncheon meat category. We have been manufacturing luncheon meat since 2009 and have extended the technological know-how, capabilities, and experience to establish a plant-based brand. One of the objectives of the project was to challenge ourselves to innovate a plant-based version of the luncheon meat, despite having no prior experience in the plant-based category. Our R&D team has really surpassed themselves in this and come up with a plant-based luncheon meat which is currently the lowest-calorie, lowest-fat plant-based luncheon meat offering in the market.

We have plans to launch into Malaysia and the Philippines, where we have existing distribution networks. We are also looking to venture into countries where we have existing business relationships with our distributors, such as Hong Kong, Brunei, Australia and the EU.  Additionally, we are in the middle of distributorship discussions with our Indonesia and Canada partners. 

How do you foresee the market potential in the region?  What is OTS’ revenue prediction for the ANEW venture?

During the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, we saw an increase in big plant-based brands from overseas coming in and establishing a presence here in the region. Two years later, we still believe there is a growth potential for the plant-based industry as the market in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region is still in its nascent stages. The pandemic shone a light for Singaporeans here to start evaluating their choices and whether they want to continue purchasing meat. The disruption in the recent chicken supply with Malaysia also struck close to home the importance of self-reliance and the significance of having alternative protein sources. 

Plant-based meat has definitely shown itself to be a less resource-intensive option for both producers and consumers. More people are now receptive to the idea of the development of unconventional food to complement traditional food sources. Also, compared to animal-based products, there are lesser regulatory barriers for plant-based products. This makes ANEW products much more accessible for consumers in the APAC region. With lower or zero tariffs for various countries, it should also push our competitive edge in keeping our prices affordable.

We are hoping that this new plant-based brand ANEW can assist OTS Holdings to break into sizeable new markets where other animal protein-based brands cannot. Under this present climate, we are hopeful ANEW can continue to grow rapidly and in time, own a significant contribution to total company revenue.

How will OTS Holdings’ future corporate developments impact shareholders in the plant-based meat industry? 

We expect plant-based products to gain more traction in Asia in the coming years, and we have planned new projects in the pipeline to support that growing demand. For instance, we are looking to expand our plant-based product range and are looking to export to over 40 countries, where there is higher awareness and penetration of plant-based products and/or a sizeable luncheon meat market.

We have also conducted market research with Enterprise Singapore and McKinsey Consulting, with the launch market mapping, to ascertain launch market priorities. Trademark registrations are also in progress for the said 40 countries. With more of these projects, we wish to attract more major shareholders, both locally and globally. 

Studies have shown that human cells absorb more proteins from animal meat than plant meat. What are your views on this?

Indeed, various recent studies show that the human body absorbs less protein from plant-based proteins compared to animal proteins. However, in my opinion, it should not discredit plant-based meat alternatives as there are still beneficial aspects such as having lesser or no saturated fat and lower calories.

For instance, one of the main ingredients in the ANEW product is soy protein, which is known to contain all the essential amino acids. While we are unable to justify at this point how much of these essential amino acids are present, however, our product’s overall protein content is able to meet HPB guidelines on claiming the product to be ‘High in protein’.   

There are also many health benefits associated with choosing plant protein. Plant protein tends to be higher in fibre, which is important for our digestive health. There are also medical reports which show that plant-based protein keeps the blood pressure low and lowers the risk of cancer and diabetes. 

How do you describe the competitiveness of plant-based meat technology in the existing market?

According to a Bloomberg Intelligence report, the global market for plant-based foods could see fivefold growth by 2030, assisted by the increasing demand for sustainable products. With our government following the trend and shifting its focus on food sustainability and self-reliance as a country, this has led to an influx of established plant-based companies moving their research & development centres or even headquarters to Singapore. Meanwhile, startups are also using technology to engineer meat in labs or manufacture it from plant-based products.

In addition, the pandemic saw a shift in consumer behaviours globally and upended the traditional meat supply chain. This caused food giants and startups alike to work and navigate a future where protein is not dominated by conventional meat sources. All these movements make Singapore a fast-growing and concentrated hub for plant-based technology and development.

How committed is Singapore to reducing its carbon footprint by embracing plant-based meat alternative initiatives? In terms of government support, what do you expect for OTS or similar ventures? 

While the alternative protein movement is still in its infancy in Asia, here in Singapore, we stand out from the crowd and have of late become a food tech innovation hub. This is reflected in the country’s commitment to its 2030 green initiative plan, whereby Singapore aims to produce 30 per cent of its nutritional needs by the year 2030. In line with this, the government has also been investing significantly in various food tech and food innovation companies. Thanks to these, the city-state of Singapore is evolving into the food tech capital of Asia.

In addition, the country is also helping out in other sustainability areas to further reduce carbon footprint. Besides signing the Paris Agreement in 2015, Singapore will continue to work with other parties to advance the international climate change agenda and pledge to achieve net zero carbon emissions by or around mid-century.  

At OTS Holdings, we are also supporting the 30 by 30 vision with the launch of our plant-based food brand – ANEW. While delivering convenience to consumers, ANEW is also looking to mitigate concerns of food security in Singapore by producing and manufacturing plant-based luncheon meat locally. 

Besides the creation of ANEW, we have been contributing to the sustainability efforts here at OTS Holdings as well. 

Hithaishi Bhaskar


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