Thailand’s plant-based protein exports on the rise

Thailand had a bumper year in plant-based proteins as exports of meat alternatives rose by 64 percent in 2021, signaling a green shift among Thailand’s food manufacturers.

Plant-based products are gaining in popularity as part of the upward trend among consumers for healthier and more environmentally friendly products, said Auramon Subthaweetham of the Ministry of Commerce.

Food is one of Thailand’s signature sectors and among its strongest exports. It includes both agricultural commodities such as rice, and processed foods such as sauces and frozen prepared meals. But as the Kingdom moves towards a more advanced stage of development, the sector is also nurturing firms involved in what are called “future foods.”

Future foods include plant-based proteins and other meat alternatives. In Western markets, Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are the two most well-known brands. But similar locally made offerings are starting to take off in Thailand.

Three years ago, NR Instant became the first “vegan food company” listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand. Aside from whipping up its own alternative protein brands, the company is aiming to supply alternative proteins as ingredients for other brands globally.

State energy company PTT also recently announced it would be entering the plant-based protein food business as part of its sustainability strategy. Seafood company Thai Union is researching fish meat alternatives.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is projecting that the global vegetable protein market will be worth more than $10 billion this year.

Thailand is the world’s 25th largest exporter of alternative proteins, but the business is young in the Kingdom and has great scope for growth. Thailand’s plant-based protein exports to other nations in Southeast Asia registered 43 percent growth last year, while those shipments to Australia soared by over 500 percent.

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