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Hainanese chicken rice, a classic Singapore dish, made with Alchemy Foodtech's low-GI rice. Image credit: Alchemy Foodtech

Alchemy Foodtech closes Thai Union-led bridge round, eyes China expansion

December 21, 2020

Alchemy Foodtech, a Singaporean startup working on novel ingredients that can combat diabetes, has raised a seven-figure US dollar amount in a bridge round led by the world’s largest seafood company.

In a statement, Alchemy Foodtech said the funding will be used to scale up its production capacity and expand into new markets, focusing on China.

Lead investor Thai Union owns well-known seafood brands such as Chicken of the Sea and John West. It also sells a variety of non-seafood products including through its Ayam Brand range which is recognized throughout Asia Pacific, as well as both branded and private-label ready meals and other items.

“We know consumers are increasingly looking to food as a way to manage their health and wellbeing. Through their products, Alchemy can help consumers enjoy a healthier diet without compromising on taste,” Patrick Bertalanffy, group director of strategy at Thai Union, said in a statement.

Other investors participating in the bridge funding included Shanghai-based Bits x Bites, South Korea’s Sunbo Partners, and Fuchsia Venture Capital, the VC arm of Bangkok-based insurance firm Muang Thai Life.

Existing investors Heritas Capital and SEEDS Capital, both hailing from Singapore, also joined the bridge financing following their investment in Alchemy Foodtech’s pre-Series A round in September 2018.

“Thanks to our strategic investors in this bridge round, the partnerships will help to provide us with better market access into international channels such as leading supermarkets, convenience and retail chains, and countries including China which we have identified as a key market opportunity,” Alan Phua, co-founder and CEO at Alchmey Foodtech, said in a statement.

“The [strategic investments] will also help with our upscaling and internationalization to aid fellow Asians in the fight against diabetes.”

The World Health Organization has described Asia as being the victim of a “fast-growing diabetes epidemic.” The causes of this are unclear, but a combination of cultural and genetic factors are thought to play a role.

The agency states that between 1980 and 2014, global prevalence of diabetes rocketed from 4.7% to 8.5% in the population, with most new cases in low- and middle-income countries. South and Southeast Asian countries have experienced a “dramatic” increase in the chronic disease, with an estimated 96 million diabetics as of 2017.

According to Alchemy Foodtech, a third of all adults worldwide with diabetes reside in China; while its native Singapore is only outranked by the US for the highest incidence of diabetes among developed countries.

Roughly 90% of all cases of the disease are type 2 diabetes, which can be prevented if certain lifestyle changes are made. That’s where Alchemy Foodtech believes its tech can have an impact.

The startup’s flagship offering is Alchemy Fibre, a blend of plant-derived ingredients and a slowly digestible carbohydrate that lowers the rate at which refined carbohydrates release sugars in the human body.

High consumption of refined carbohydrates — such as white rice, which is a staple in diets across Asia Pacific — has been linked to heightened risk of type 2 diabetes. Alchemy Fibre is effectively able to reprogram refined carbs into something healthier and with a lower glycemic index (GI) by reducing the glucose they release. It also allows food manufacturers to increase the fiber and prebiotic content of carb-heavy foods without sacrificing their taste and texture profiles.

Products containing Alchemy Fibre have been available at select restaurants, retailers, and pharmacies in Singapore since July. The startup expects to bring more low-GI ‘Made with Alchemy Fibre’ products, including bread, noodles, and rice-based items, to Singaporean supermarkets in collaboration with its partners from next month.

According to AgFunder’s 2020 ASEAN Agrifoodtech Investment Report, Alchemy Foodtech was the second-highest funded startup in the Innovative Food category — which covers alt-protein as well as novel ingredients — in Southeast Asia last year, raising $1.8 million in a single round.

Got a news tip? Email me at [email protected] or find me on Twitter at @jacknwellis

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