3 Questions with the Food Innovators of Tomorrow
It would have been inconceivable even a few years ago to imagine that labs are growing meat, and that "eggless" eggs and edible cups will soon become everyday items on supermarket shelves. Armed with technology’s potential and the vision to disrupt the industry, food innovators are changing the way we look at nutrition, food safety, and even product packaging. Their groundbreaking innovations are providing solutions to the food supply challenges of the future – making tomorrow’s dream a reality today. Many of the most promising initiatives are still in the development stage, but they also possess the potential to revolutionise the way we look at food.
Food Industry Asia (FIA) is pleased to announce that some of the world’s most prominent innovators will be joining us in Singapore for the FIA Food for the Future Summit on 26 April.
In a series of articles with Summit speakers ahead of the event, FIA asked these innovators to share their thoughts on the role of innovation within Asia’s food industry, and what led them to become food innovators.
1. How do you believe innovation can address current issues facing the food industry, such as nutrition, land scarcity and growing population?
Verleen Goh, Alchemy Foodtech: Innovation is when people think out of the box and do things differently. Unfortunately, agriculture and dietary habits are age-old – many old practices and mindsets in the fields and kitchens still used today urgently need a shake up to improve productivity and sustainability (including health sustainability).
For instance, rice is at the heart of many Asians' diet, and most Asians cannot live a day without eating at least a bowl of rice. However, with the high glycaemic index (GI) of rice, this habit may be causing more harm than imagined.
Ms Verleen Goh, Chief Food Fighter (second from left) and Mr Alan Phua, Master Builder (far right) from Alchemy Foodtech with Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr S. Iswaran (far left) at Techinnovation 2017 in Singapore, presenting their Diabetec® technology, which lowers the glycaemic index of carbohydrate food staples.
At Alchemy Foodtech, we hope that foodtech innovation can change this. Our FibreGrain™ is a rice-shaped grain made through our proprietary manufacturing process with our patent-pending glycaemic lowering composition. The FibreGrain™ lowers the GI of rice when added to rice in small quantities, with its efficacy proven through in-vivo GI studies, while retaining the original rice taste, texture, fragrance and colour. We believe that such an innovation will be able to promote and improve individuals’ health, especially for the ageing population, which has the highest percentage of diabetes.
Other innovations such as clean meat or alternative protein provide more sustainable and greener solutions to our love of meat. The current challenge is cost, but once those innovations become the industry standard or the norm in everyday diets, we will be able to bring costs down substantially to the level that everyone can afford it.
Prototype by Intergriculture Inc., which aims to develop large-scale tissue engineering technology, with the ultimate goal of commercial production of cultured meat.
Yuki Hanyu, Intergriculture: There is no single silver bullet "innovation". Food is a very diverse sector where many culinary cultures exist and even within a culture, there are personal preferences. Innovation of specific foods or ingredients plays a role in addressing current food security challenges, but innovation in food infrastructure such as in distribution, safety, food waste and data management would make a big difference. In addition, there are issues that businesses and capitalism cannot handle. There needs to be a lot more attention – and potentially funding – on players like citizen science, local communities, consumer initiatives, permaculturalists, non-profits, thought-leaders etc.
Ashok Jaiswal, Lecker Labs: Innovation can help move food production from farms and factories to families’ homes – we call this FF2F innovation. Of course, we can’t have rice and wheat fields at home but innovation has allowed us to grow protein rich bugs (yes, I mean insects), a low-water consumption species and ingredient, and now it is even possible to make your own yogurt and other fermented food at home from whatever milk you chose without any hassle. This would reduce the need for cold storage for transpiration as well as supermarkets.
Developed by Lecker Labs, Yomee is the world's first dissolvable pod-based yogurt maker, allowing consumers to make their own yogurt at home without leaving any packaging waste.
Matthew Godfrey, Nutrition Innovation: Non-communicable diseases such as obesity and diabetes are costing the world over US$ 2 trillion, according to McKinsey. Part of this crisis is caused by the foods we eat and sugar is at the centre of this debate. By eliminating sugar refining and adding intelligence to sugar milling, we can unleash the proven healthy properties of natural polyphenols to create a low GI, healthier sugar that also dramatically increases efficiency at scale. Our product is designed to be used by the world’s food and beverage companies as part of their sugar reduction and replacement strategies. In the process, we can help improve and save lives everywhere and help brands deliver upon the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Nucane, developed by Nutrition Innovation, is as a less processed, healthier and low GI industrial sugar that could be used in any brand recipe as a straight swap for refined sugar.
2. How will the landscape of the food industry in Asia look like over the next ten years? What do you think will be the one big change from today?
VG: Sugar consumption is likely to continue to drop as governments in Asia set tighter restrictions on sugar due to the diabetes problem. However, we think that protein consumption will increase, and not only animal based, but also plant based. Due to the large number of vegetarians already present in Asia, many Asians are exposed to vegetarian meat alternatives at a young age. Flexitarians are going to be more common, especially if the prices of plant proteins can become substantially cheaper than meat protein. Native ingredients such as lotus root will probably make more of an appearance as they become trendy in the West, which typically influences us in the East to take more notice of our own food cultures and use these ingredients more diversely in our cooking.
YH: There will be an increased number of government moves and initiatives based on "food security". Also, we will see a shift from smallholder farmers and shop owners to industrialised agriculture and centralised food industry. In Japan and Korea, this is already happening primarily due to ageing farmers, rather than economic reasons.
AJ: Seeing how food packaging is probably one of the biggest contributors to landfills, not only in Asia but across the world, the industry will definitely move towards bio-degradable food packaging. Our team is currently working on completely edible packaging so that users can eat the food inside the packaging itself.
MG: The trends are clear. Less processed, less refined and more natural. More like what mum used to make, and celebrating local heritage and culture.
3. What inspired you to be a food innovator?
VG: The love for food and health. I have always thought of food creation to be something magical and coming from a food science and technology background made me understand and appreciate the magic, and how what we eat can directly influence our health. Because I love food, I am saddened by the fact that people are falling ill and getting chronic diseases because of what they eat. Food should give us joy and pleasure, and if I am able to innovate to make food great again, I’ll be happy to do so.
YH: Clean meat or other synthetic protein source appears in shows like Doraemon, Kimba the White Lion and Tau Zero. Building a food culture plant on Mars is one of the topics I chose among other Sci-Fi’s that I wished to do.
AJ: About 27,000 plastic Keurig cups are filling the landfills every minute and this is only in the United States. I am sure numbers would be similar or even more for Nespresso metal cups. As innovators, we did not want to be part of an existing problem and we are glad to announce that after 18 months of back-breaking research, we found the solution with Yomee pods – completely dissolvable pods.
MG: Our founder, Dr David Kannar. He not only has the vision to change the world but the ingenuity, the passion and the determination to create a product that can.
FIA’s inaugural Food for the Future Summit will take place on 26 April at the Grand Hyatt in Singapore. This invitation-only event for CEOs and senior leaders will feature debates around some of the biggest food trends and issues relating to food innovation, reformulation, sustainability and product packaging.
A full list of the innovators that will be attending this year’s FIA Food for the Future Summit can be found here.
Verleen Goh is the Co-Founder of Alchemy Foodtech, a deep technology food startup supported by SPRING Singapore’s prestigious TECS Research Grant. By combining foodtech, biotech and medtech into everyday foods people eat, they aim to make everyday food staples lower in GI so they will not spike blood glucose levels dangerously. Their patent-pending glycaemic lowering composition lowers the GI of high GI foods to medium or low GI and is dosage-dependent.
Yuki Hanyu is the Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Integriculture Inc. that was founded in 2015. The Tokyo-based company pioneered a “flow-based, scalable cell culture system using low-cost culture medium to develop clean meat, clean foie gras and other cellular agriculture products based on their unique ~x1000 low-cost general-purpose large-scale cell culture technology.
Ashok Jaiswal is the Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Lecker Labs, the start up behind Yomee that is revolutionising homemade yogurt as the world's first dissolvable pod based fully automatic yogurt maker. Yomee aims to give you fresh craft-quality yogurt at a third of the cost of the store-bought brands and without any packaging waste.
Matthew Godfrey is the Chief Executive Officer at Nutrition Innovation, whose technology empowers global sugar mills to produce a healthier, less refined, industrial low GI sugar as a cost-effective replacement for white refined sugar as brands look for sugar replacement solutions. This innovation unleashes the development of better healthier food & beverage products.
FIA issues regular e-bulletins with analysis on relevant food and beverage industry issues across the region. To subscribe to this service, please click here