Tolaram eyes Asia’s alternative protein market after success with noodles in Africa

SINGAPORE – Singapore-based multinational conglomerate Tolaram is eyeing Asia’s lucrative alternative proteins market after achieving success in Africa with its instant noodle brand Indomie. 

Tolaram New Business Development Manager Avinash Aswani revealed in an interview with Food Navigator that the company had plans to start off its base in Singapore which already has a thriving food innovation ecosystem. 

“[The alternative protein space] is developing rapidly in Singapore thanks to strong government support so there are many related companies based here,” said Aswani.  

“[The first move we have made here] is the recent backing of Singapore-based Shandi Global with its realistic plant-based chicken. They figured out how to do this cost-effectively, making it a viable product to scale to emerging markets with us.” 

Aswan further revealed that the company was also eyeing the Indonesian market where it has been operating for a long time, but in the financial services sector.  

“We are also looking at Indonesia where we have strong roots– we understand the country culturally and are keen on expanding into the food sector here [especially as] we have noticed that plant-based and healthy eating is growing rapidly here too,” he added. 

 “The younger generation of consumers in Indonesia is more health-conscious, so we do believe that if the taste and the price are right, it will not be hard to get them to adopt plant-based products.” 

As per what technology the company intends to explore in its quest to conquer Asia’s food industry, Aswani revealed that the firm is currently still exploring all alternative protein options in Asia, and is not fixated on any specific type of technology or product format. 

For Tolaram, the technology that would suit the average consumer in an emerging market like Indonesia, with the potential to scale up and radically change the food system, is what it will go for.  

The company has already started off its Asian journey with investment in other alternative protein firms, but it is looking at potentially establishing manufacturing and scaled-up production of its own in the region as well.  

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“We’re looking first to invest in firms that have more of an R&D focus as we are not R&D experts, and that is a gap we want to plug here, [but] there is certainly potential for us to manufacture products here directed at the Asian market in the future,” said Aswan. 

Venturing into Asia however presents its own challenges which require setting up a robust supply chain, manufacturing and distribution models for scale, and navigating political and economic risks.  

Aswan however believes Tolaram’s experience in Africa has prepared it for potential market success in Asia.  

He says: “This is something we are good at, and we have done this beyond Nigeria – in Ghana, Egypt and South Africa for example. 

“We believe we can also provide the same support for operational ability, production and sales to emerging markets in Asia, markets that are generally more challenging, as we have done it before in even more challenging geographies.” 

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