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Growthwell ChickP crab patty
A crab burger using ChickP's chickpea-derived protein. Image credit: Growthwell

Singapore’s Growthwell gets $8m in Temasek-led round, invests in Israeli alternative protein startup

April 27, 2020

Singaporean sovereign fund Temasek has led an $8 million investment into Growthwell Group, a maker of plant-based meat alternatives hailing from the city-state.

Growthwell simultaneously announced its own investment into ChickP, an Israeli startup developing a chickpea-based protein to produce meat and seafood analogs. (Read more about them here.)

Family-run Growthwell has been manufacturing vegetarian food products for the Southeast Asian market since 1989 – particularly wheat gluten-based ‘mock meats’ that often form the centerpiece of dishes from Chinese Buddhist cuisine. It also runs several vegetarian restaurants in Singapore, while its factory is in Johor Bahru, just across the border with Malaysia.

The company is now helmed by brothers Colin and Justin Chou, sons of founding managing director Chou Shih Hsin. Executing director Justin founded vegetarian restaurant chain Greendot in 2011, and digital farmer-to-restaurant marketplace Glife Technologies in 2017.

With the new funding, Growthwell aims to accelerate its move into the new wave of plant-based proteins.

“As a leading manufacturer, we aim to capitalize on the growing global demand for plant-based alternatives in the areas of meat and seafood,” Justin said in a statement. “Growthwell strives to be the local and regional champion in supporting the drive to achieve long-term food supply stability.”

The company will deploy some of the funding to invest in ChickP and to develop scalable product lines for the Asia-Pacific market using the Israeli startup’s chickpea-based protein. These products include imitation prawn and squid meat, as well as an imitation crabmeat burger patty. Chickpea-based milk and ice cream are also on the cards for next year.

ChickP claims its 90% chickpea-protein isolate – jointly developed with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem – is a marked improvement on existing concentrates that contain a maximum of 70% protein derived from the legume. This allows it to be taste-neutral and free of gluten and other allergens, while remaining “high in nutrition and [providing] a strong, smooth texture and emulsion stability.”

Beyond Meat is entering China for the first time via a partnership with Starbucks. Read about it here.

This, Growthwell claims, gives ChickP’s protein “clean-label qualities and the potential to be a highly adaptable superfood with […] high protein, high fibre, low carb, [and] low sodium” characteristics. Its neutral taste “does not require further masking through sugar or flavour additives,” giving it “an edge over other conventional Asian plant-based meat alternatives, such as gluten-based mock meat.”

Some of the money will also go towards the creation of a research and development center in Singapore, focusing on innovation around plant proteins and food manufacturing. Growthwell is targeting a Q1 2021 opening for the facility, which will feature “state of the art” high moisture extrusion capabilities and a fully automated production line.

Another portion of the funding will be used to enhance Growthwell’s distribution networks and supply chain capabilities, with a view to expanding availability of its plant-based products tio markets such as China and Australia.

To that end, it has signed a deal with Singapore-based food manufacturer and distributor Country Foods, which is wholly owned by aviation ground handler and in-flight caterer SATS. The collaboration will allow Growthwell to tap into Country Foods’ “extensive list of [clients] in hospitality, food services, retail, wholesale, airlines, and governments,” it said in a statement.

Which alternative protein companies have a chance at transforming Southeast Asia’s eating habits? Let me know at [email protected]

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