Andre Menezes was born in Brazil. After graduating from university in 2012, he worked for a global poultry exporter that sent him to Singapore, where he helped distribute alternative protein products from American brands Impossible Foods and Eat Just. Menezes rose from consultant to general manager in just four years.

Then, he gave it all up. In 2020, he quit to start his own alt-protein company, Next Gen, with Timo Recker, a German startup founder he had met through work. The business launched in October with just six employees and a research and development centre in Singapore’s central business district.

Next Gen has been in the fast lane ever since. In February, it raised US$10 million in what’s claimed to be a record seed investment for a plant-based foodtech startup. By July, its plant-based chicken product, TiNDLE, had reached 70 restaurants in Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau. By 2024, it wants to be in Europe and the United States.

If you’re wondering why Menezes chose to start his company in a market with under six million consumers, there are quite a few reasons. Singapore’s “booming capability” as a foodtech hub offers perks like good infrastructure and access to investors, multinational partners, and world-class chefs, says Menezes, who is now a permanent resident. “The industry is still nascent, but Singapore is ahead regionally in terms of infrastructure and government support.”

More importantly, there’s no pushback from local meat producers against alt-protein companies, unlike markets like the US markets like the US The Wall Street Journal America’s Cattle Ranchers Are Fighting Back Against Fake Meat Read more . Even in India, the country’s largest milk producer, Amul, is at war at war Livemint Amul, PETA spar over switch to vegan products Read more with plant-based dairy. However, land-scarce Singapore imports 90% of its food, so there’s little chance of friction. What’s more, the government is completely behind the alt-protein revolution.

Singapore’s goal is to become a global hub for agri-foodtech, including alternative proteins, says Bernice Tay, director of food manufacturing at Enterprise Singapore (ESG), a government agency overseeing enterprise growth.

The city-state already has 30 startups in the alt-protein space, according to ESG. In 2019, Singapore raked in 37 deals, worth US$177 million, in agri-foodtech investment, says Tay. Alt-protein startups in the Asia Pacific region scored US$206 million in funding last year, with Singapore-based companies among the best-funded, according to a report by the Good Food Institute (GFI) Asia Pacific.

It’s no surprise Singapore wants a bite of this (meatless) pie. Alternative proteins are the asset du jour— a slew of firms have launched on public markets around the world with much fanfare in the past two years.

AUTHOR

Rachel Chia

Rachel is based in Singapore. She covers a vast range of topics, ranging from food and lifestyle to business, consumer issues, and law.

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