Thai team wins regional vegan food innovation challenge

A team of university students from Thailand that created vegan Wagyu beef slices won the top prize at the Southeast Asia Food Innovation Challenge last week sponsored by ProVeg International.

The Thai team from Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok bested competitors from five other countries in the region with their Marble Booster project: Wagyu-style marbled-meat analogue slices infused with immune-boosters, turmeric and black-pepper extracts.

Teams from other countries developed plant-based foods ranging from a vegan version of Indonesia’s nasi lemak and meat-free keema masala, an Indian dish found in Singapore and Malaysia.

“We’re honored to be receiving the first award,” said team members Nuti Hutasingh, Varanya Techasukthavorn and Natchanon Srangsomjit. They said that they hoped to further develop their Wagyu beef with the help of Thailand’s CPF, or Charoen Pokphand Foods, a division of the Kingdom’s largest agro-industrial conglomerate.

CPF and other companies mentored the teams once they were selected in April to be finalists in the competition. Other companies mentoring the young innovators included Nestle, Unilever, Oatly, Haofood and Beyond Meat.

“Asia presents the largest opportunity for plant-based diets. To tap into this enormous opportunity, innovation is key. Asia needs more tasty, healthy, and convenient plant-based products targeting not only vegans but all types of consumers,” said Shirley Lu, Managing Director of ProVeg Asia.

The challenge, which began in January this year, drew more than 125 entries from 13 countries. ProVeg International, founded in Germany, is a nongovernmental organization dedicated to promoting food systems transformation. Its stated goal is to reduce consumption of animal products by 50 percent by the year 2040.

“I must say these young talents worked effortlessly with passion and dedication to achieve their goals and hope that their product ideas will end up in retail stores or food-service channels,” said Lalana Thirahusethkij, CPF Vice President of Research and Development.

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