South Korean Tofu Giant Pulmuone Makes First Foray Into Plant-Based Meat

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Pulmuone, a South Korean food corporation best known for soybean products, has announced the launch of a new plant-based meat line, marking its first entry into the category. The company plans to introduce more than 20 types of plant-based products, from soy-based meat mince and chicken tenders to vegan meal kits and coconut-based yogurt. 

Seoul-based food producer Pulmuone is making its first foray into the plant-based meat space, revealing that it will be releasing more than 20 new plant-based meat products over the next few years. The firm said on Wednesday (March 25) that it will be launching products into three primary categories – high protein plant-based, low-carb vegan and plant-based meat analogues – of which eight products of the planned 20 have already been developed

In the plant-based meat segment, Pulmuone says that it has created a tofu-based meat crumble sauce and a soybean-based chicken tender alternative, both aimed at catering to local Korean appetites and wider Asian cuisines. 

“Unlike existing plant-based meats that focused mainly on western dishes and hamburger patties, we will develop Korean-styled dishes aimed at establishing unrivalled competitiveness,” said the firm. 

Since its founding in 1984, Pulmuone has become one of the leading tofu and soybean-based perishable food products, but also produces noodles, dumplings, seaweed, sauces and frozen foods, many containing fish, egg and meat. 

Pulmuone plant-based products.

Unlike existing plant-based meats that focused mainly on western dishes and hamburger patties, we will develop Korean-styled dishes aimed at establishing unrivalled competitiveness.

Pulmuone

The latest move marks a shift in its business strategy to cater to mainstream consumer demand for healthier and sustainable plant-based options, a trend that most big food businesses are now quickly responding to with new meatless product launches. 

Aside from plant-based meat, Pulmuone will be introducing a number of “vegetable-oriented products” as part of its long-term roadmap planned until 2023, including a low-carb flour-free tofu noodle kit, a high-protein soybean-based energy bar, and a vegan-friendly yogurt made with a base of coconut. 

In its overseas markets, Pulmuone says it will be aggressively penetrating the U.S. market through its North American subsidiary Pulmuone USA, primarily through its existing tofu and soybean product range, but also a new “Plantspired” line comprising plant-based meat patties, reheatable skillet meals, pre-seasoned tofu products and ready-made bolognese sauce and stir-fry “tossables”. 

Speaking about its plant-forward pivot, Lee Sang-yoon, director of the Pulmuone Research Institute, cited the coronavirus-driven plant-based boost as a major reason for the move. 

Pulmuone USA Plantspired range.

The Covid-19 pandemic will fuel consumers’ interest in healthy and nutritious vegetable protein sources instead of meat and consumption trends that value the global environment and ecosystem.

Lee Sang-Yoon, Director, Pulmuone Research Institute

According to recent statistics collected during the pandemic, the number of vegans in South Korea has tripled to half a million in a decade, while flexitarianism has ballooned to an estimated 10 million – representing nearly 20% of the country’s total population. 

“The Covid-19 pandemic will fuel consumers’ interest in healthy and nutritious vegetable protein sources instead of meat and consumption trends that value the global environment and ecosystem,” said Lee. “Pulmuone will take the initiative in the vegetable-oriented food business based on its tofu production technology and R&D capacities on bean protein.” 

Pulmuone is only the latest in a wave of South Korean companies tapping the plant-based trend, with health-focused brand Viomix Tech launching a separate plant-based “Better Than Meat” line and hypermarket giant Lotte Mart launching a new Gogi Daesin brand to offer meat-free nuggets and veggie cutlets. 

They join homegrown food tech player Unlimeat, the vegan beef brand developed by Zikooin, whose alternative is made from upcycled “imperfect” grains, nuts and oats that would have otherwise been thrown away.


All images courtesy of Pulmuone.


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