Singapore-based alternative protein maker Next Gen Foods will make its debut in the Gulf region in September and plans to make inroads into the US and Europe come 2022, the startup’s co-founder and chief executive Andre Menezes said.
In an interview with DealStreetAsia, Menezes said that Next Gen has chosen to enter the United Arab Emirates and Doha next as part of its expansion plans targeting global cities. These cities have a very cosmopolitan population, and like Singapore, these small cities have growing food security concerns. Classic Fine Foods will handle distribution for the company in the Gulf region as well. By next year, the company should have about five to 10 people working there.
Following the UAE launch, the company is eyeing markets in the US and Europe. Menezes said the company will set up operations in the US by mid-2022, and Europe by the end of 2022. These two regions are the largest plant-based food markets globally right now, he said. And the US in particular tends to be a trend-setter, so Next Gen hopes to use the country as a platform to develop its name.
“They do have the ability to really drive global awareness … the US is arguably the most influential country around brands, media, celebrities, products, and restaurant chains,” he said. The company aims to have around 40 to 50 employees in the US by the middle of next year.
Despite the numerous alternative protein companies in the States, Menezes believes there is room for his startup.
“Plant-based players are just part of the same boat and our job as a category is to grow the category and there will be space for everyone,” he said. “Our job is to grow over the animal farming industry, not over anyone else in [the] plant-based [industry].”
The alternative meat market was valued at $5-10 billion in 2021, or less than 1% of the global meat industry, per an EY report. Its value could soar to between $77 billion and $153 billion by 2030, making up 5% to 10% of the global meat market, the report projected.
In July, Next Gen raised $20 million in an extended seed round led by Temasek with participation from the likes of GGV Capital and K3 Ventures. It previously raised $10 million in the first tranche of an oversubscribed seed round – they had originally planned to raise $7 million – in January this year also led by Temasek.
The company launched in October last year and is known for its plant-based chicken brand, TiNDLE. The product is now available in 100 restaurants and chains in Singapore, Macau, and Hong Kong. It is also ready to launch in Kuala Lumpur, but extended lockdowns in Malaysia have delayed the debut.
As Menezes scouts the US and Europe for business opportunities, the company is not putting Asia on the back seat, he said. A newly-hired set of executives will continue to run the ship in Singapore — it recently onboarded former executives of Givaudan, Temasek, and Johnson & Johnson.
It is also interested in entering Australia and New Zealand, and is currently looking for a country manager to oversee business in the region. Menezes said the market is “highly attractive” because of the peoples’ openness to plant-based food and sustainability, as well as its multicultural food scene. It will also likely be Next Gen’s third largest market after the US and Europe in the near term.
Singapore will remain its research and development hub and headquarters, Menezes said. Though production of its plant-based product is currently done in the Netherlands through a contract manufacturer, he thinks the company could set up a smaller factory in Singapore for pilot projects some time next year.
Singapore and Hong Kong also remain key cities to test their concepts due to their diverse populations, he said.
China is also another target market, and the startup secured funding from Chinese agriculture and foodtech venture fund Bits x Bites in its extended seed round, but Menezes said they are choosing to enter the US and Europe first as they are “more time-sensitive” whereas China – like Brazil, another of Next Gen’s target market – has a longer runway in terms of the plant-based market maturity.
As the startup tries to expand, it is planning to raise a Series A round by the middle of next year. No target amount has been set yet, but Menezes said it will be significantly more.
“In the US, the leading players – whom we actually like to [follow] and behave at that level – they have raised hundreds of millions in their journey. So we do … expect that we will end up throughout our journey, raising hundreds of millions,” he said.
Next Gen’s products are currently only available through food and beverage outlets. Menezes said this is to make sure consumers and chefs are confident in the product first, knowing the it tastes good when prepared well. Next Gen will go retail within the next 18 months.
Next Gen is still in “growth mode”, he said. Revenue will only become “meaningful” when it launches in the US and Europe.
“On the profit side, one thing with our business model…is to make sure that fundamentally every volume that we sell is profitable…since day zero.”