Shin-Etsu Chemical, one of the world’s largest suppliers of plastics and chip-making materials and the biggest chemical company in Japan, has just made its first entry into the plant-based meat supply chain. It has developed a new binding agent, which can help improve the texture and structure of plant-based meat alternatives.
In search of a new revenue stream, the Tokyo-based corporation has developed its newest product, which is targeted for use in plant-based meats. Called Metolose and Tylopur, the food grade binding agent will function as an ingredient for plant-based alternatives, which will help the final product maintain its desired shape and texture throughout cooking processes, from freezing to frying. Crucially, the cellulose-based ingredient can be used to replace egg whites to ensure that meatless products are suitable for vegans.
Currently Shin-Etsu is the world’s biggest producer of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, and silicone for semiconductors by market share. It is also a major supplier of cellulose derivatives for food and industrial uses.
With over 40% of the company’s stock held by international investors, as reported by the Nikkei, the move could help boost the chemicals and materials conglomerate’s investor appeal amid rising environmental, social and governance (ESG) awareness. According to the publication, Shin-Etsu is eyeing major Western food techs such as Beyond Meat and existing food giants like Nestlé with its new product.
Earlier this year, Nestlé made the decision to aggressively pursue plant-based innovation across all its existing product categories and brands in a bid to keep up with consumer demand. Most recently, the FMCG behemoth made its first foray into the plant-based seafood market with a vegan tuna product, launched under its brand Garden Gourmet.
Shin-Etsu is aiming annual sales of over a billion yen (US$9.5 million) as its initial goal, as demand for plant-based products continues to grow rapidly. Latest estimates by market research firm Zion predicts that the plant-based meat industry alone could reach US$21 billion by as soon as 2025.
Other research has found that the overall plant-based food market, which includes plant-based meat, dairy and egg alternatives and vegan frozen consumer products, will hit US$74.2 billion by 2027.
Both reports cited consumer awareness of the environmental footprint of animal agriculture, health-consciousness and food safety concerns, especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, as key reasons behind the global trend.
Lead image courtesy of Beyond Meat.