Charoen Pokphand Foods Pcl (CPF) will be rolling out plant-based meat products this year in response to growing demand, as well as operate using circular economy principles in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). For Thailand’s largest agribusiness company to shift its focus to sustainability and plant-based foods signals tidal change amongst mainstream consumers in Asia.
Earlier in January, CPF announced that it will introduce plant-based meat substitutes in Thailand and the rest of Asia this year as a part of the firm’s strategy to capitalise on the growing demand for vegan food options.
In a Reuters interview, CEO Prasit Boondoungprasert cited the “global trend of flexitarians” as a key part of the company’s decision to shift its focus to plant-based, and the increasing number of restaurants who are now sourcing meat substitutes to expand their offerings to customers.
According to market research firm Mintel, over half of metropolitan Thai consumers are now looking to reduce meat consumption – and of this sample, 45% are specifically aiming to follow a strictly vegetarian or vegan diet.
Another analysis by Zion Market Research estimates that demand for vegan meat alternatives, primarily driven by Asia-Pacific markets, will drive the global industry’s explosion to reach US$21 billion by 2025.
Boondoungprasert also cited that consumer demand for plant-based has increased domestically in the past year due to the outbreak of African swine fever, which has resulted in skyrocketing pork prices across Asia and growing concerns about food safety.
In addition to launching plant-based products, CPF recently revealed plans to ramp up its sustainability efforts across its supply chain in line with the United Nations’ SDGs. Last week, the company’s senior vice president for corporate social responsibility, Wuthichai Sithipreedanant, revealed that the company will be shifting to a circular economy strategy.
“Balance of human life is closely linked to the balance of nature,” Sithipreedanant told Bangkok Post. “People cannot live in sustainable prosperity without nature’s abundant resources. Therefore, we must take care of the environment as we take care of ourselves.”
Among some of the policies that the company plans to put in place include increasing its use of renewable energy and eliminating the use of coal by 2022, reducing plastic packaging as much as possible by offering 100% reusable and recyclable options.
It will also establish a framework to measure food loss and food waste starting from this year in order to set targets for minimising waste, as well as collaborate with the authorities’ Forest Department to help regenerate Lop Buri province’s Khao Phraya Doen Tong mountain forests.
Like many other Southeast Asian countries, Thailand is facing acute challenges as climate change intensifies and is already witnessing higher temperatures, sea-level rise, floods and droughts happen on a more frequent basis. The country’s capital Bangkok is set to become one of the worst-hit destinations, with nearly 40% of its area expected to experience severe flooding annually by 2030, according to the World Bank.
For Thailand’s largest agribusiness company to reposition its business approach to offer plant-based foods and set circular economy targets is testament to the growing health and environmental awareness amongst mainstream consumers in the country.
Lead image courtesy of New Food Magazine.