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Supply Chain Woes Boost Meat Substitutes in Asia, and Investors are Biting

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At Love Handle, a deli that labels itself a butcher shop in downtown Singapore, there is no meat for sale. Instead, jackfruit pastrami is sliced into razor-thin strips, minced soy beef is drenched in teriyaki sauce and mushroom steaks are cut into filets. The shop, whose black-and-white checkered interiors hold a butcher block, slicer and mincer, labels itself Asia’s first plant-based meat “butchery.” It caters to those who want to give up animal meat without sacrificing the comfort of a double cheeseburger and greasy nuggets.

Our inspiration was McDonald’s chicken nuggets,” said chef and co-founder Addis Tan, pointing to a steaming batch of breaded chicken substitutes. “We want customers to comfort eat food they can associate with memories or things their mom cooked.”
Love Handle estimates that half of its customers are meat eaters experimenting with plant-based protein. The shop hopes to ease them into meat alternatives with products they can easily identify, such as substitutes for Italian herb meatballs and sausages.

By contrast, industry professionals say better technology and larger scale have allowed them to sell alternative meats at increasingly lower costs. In the Netherlands, meat substitutes became less expensive than animal protein in 2022, according to a study commissioned by a Dutch nonprofit organization that promotes meat alternatives. Some alternative egg products have also reached price parity with animal eggs.

But on average, plant-based meat is two times as expensive as beef, and more than four times as expensive as chicken per pound, according to a 2021 report by the Good Food Institute nonprofit that cited Nielsen data. Some makers of meat substitutes in North America and Britain, such as Beyond Meat, have also struggled with higher costs and were unable to rapidly grow sales this year as inflation gives cost-conscious customers in key markets pause. For those who have long searched for meat substitutes, lower prices have been a game changer.

Audrey Seah, 54, has been looking for alternative meats to create Southeast Asian dishes such as chicken rice and pulled beef rendang for her vegan husband. A few years ago, the products were too expensive for her budget and hard to find. Now, they have their own section in the frozen food aisle at her local supermarket. “Prices have gone down, and in some supermarkets, you can now find alternatives at the same price as meats,” she said. Lower prices mean the Seah family eats more alternative proteins than ever.


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