Much like the rest of the world, Thailand’s plant-based movement is picking up pace. From the number of restaurants rolling out meatless dishes to the emergence of homegrown food techs developing accessible and affordable plant-based proteins, the country’s food scene is racing to respond to the growing demand from consumers, particularly in the wake of the coronavirus crisis that has exposed the dangers of the meat industry.
Increasingly aware of health, food safety and the global environment in the wake of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that has seen the meat supply chain upended by slaughterhouse outbreaks on top of emerging livestock diseases from African swine fever to Div1 shrimp virus, consumers all over the world have been opting for plant-based meat more than ever before.
One recent poll in Hong Kong found that a quarter of the city’s young shoppers are now going to reduce their meat intake as a direct result of the pandemic. Meanwhile, South Korea reported a tripling in its vegan population and Japan’s plant-based food scene has exploded with vegan konbini to 100% dairy and egg-free Japanese bakeries.
Thailand is not exempt from the global trend. Recently, Zen Corporation, the conglomerate behind the country’s famous street food brand Khiang, began introducing a plant-based version of pad kaprao at all of the chain’s locations nationwide and for online delivery, according to a report from Bangkok Post.
Zen’s just the latest to venture into the plant-based scene, with Mudman Plc, the operator of Charna restaurants and Au Bon Pain cafés already serving up plant-based meals since a few months ago. It is reported that Yum Restaurants, the parent of KFC and McThai Co, the firm that franchises McDonald’s in the country, are now too hoping to dish out plant-based options in the next few months.
“Shifting towards more plant-based foods is a global trend for several years and is gradually trending in Thailand as more people become concerned about their health and global sustainable development,” said Boonyong Tansakul, CEO of Zen Corporation, in conversation with Bangkok Post.
“Customers nowadays eat a meal not only because of taste, but also out of a desire to support companies that have sustainable development.”
While mainstream restaurant chains expand their plant-based offerings, startups in the country are also emerging to accelerate the dietary shift to more sustainable proteins.
In June, Chiang Mai-based food tech Let’s Plant Meat Co launched its first-ever product – plant-based burger patties – in over 80 supermarket chain locations across Thailand, including some of the biggest retailers like Tesco Lotus, Gourmet Market, MaxValu and Jagota Gourmet.
Shifting towards more plant-based foods is a global trend for several years and is gradually trending in Thailand as more people become concerned about their health and global sustainable development. Customers nowadays eat a meal not only because of taste, but also out of a desire to support companies that have sustainable development.Boonyong Tansakul, CEO of Zen Corporation
In the same month, manufacturing giant Charoen Pokphand Foods Pcl (CPF), the country’s largest agribusiness firm, announced that the company would begin developing and launching its own line of plant-based meat products.
With the plant-based trend sweeping across Asia, one recent report estimates that the global meat industry will grow by an astonishing rate of 9.6% annually to reach US$24 billion by as soon as 2025. Another bold prediction, made by the founder and CEO of Impossible Foods, the company behind the famous “bleeding” plant-based patties, suggested that the meat industry could be wiped out within the next 15 years.
Lead image courtesy of Café Pla / One Siam.