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Next Gen Foods has big plans for Tindle, its plant-based chicken alternative

The Singapore-based food tech start-up has raised S$13.2 million for its seed round of funding.

“Someone asked me: ‘How could you get as strong as an ox without eating any meat?’ And my answer was, have you ever seen an ox eating meat?” These were the famous last lines of Germany’s strongest man Patrik Baboumian in the trailer of Netflix’s The Game Changers. The documentary also features former bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger and kungfu star Jackie Chan, both vegans, discussing the benefits of plant-based diets.

Singapore has climbed the ranks to be among the top vegan-friendly cities in Asia, so it was hardly surprising that, in February, the world’s largest seed round for a plant-based food tech company was raised here by Next Gen Foods to the tune of US$10 million (S$13.2 million).

Our city-state has even more reasons to root for vegetable farming over meat right now: land scarcity and the Singapore Green Plan 2030. Both require us to grow more vegetables to be sustainable. Vegetable farming also takes up less land space and, compared to real chicken, the plant-based variety produces 88 per cent less of the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.

(Related: French researchers have claimed success in cultivating the white truffle)

Producing our food locally also helps us to reach the 30 by 30 goal of achieving 30 per cent of our nutritional needs by 2030.

“We’re extremely grateful to have blue-chip investors such as Temasek, Singapore Economic Development Board and Singapore-based tech venture capital firm K3 Ventures on board for our ambitions for hypergrowth,” says Next Gen Foods’ chief marketing officer, Jean Madden. Temasek also backs Impossible Foods in its plant-based beef.

She adds, “I think it is undeniable that we attracted these investors in part due to Singapore’s 30 by 30 goal. Chicken as a protein has also overtaken beef and pork in global consumption.”

In no way is Tindle rushing to the supermarket space though. Next Gen’s key strategy to tackling the market is to go through chefs in F&B establishments. “It’ll be a snowball effect as focusing on building a cult brand and establishing strong, one- on-one connections with chefs will help us build brand love from them and their customers,” reveals Madden.

(Related: Plant-based meats: 6 meat substitutes to try in Singapore)

She also pulls out figures from Dupont Nutrition & Biosciences’ research suggesting that the demand for plant-based foods in Asia is projected to surge 200 per cent in the next five years, and that 78 per cent of Asian consumers already feel that plant-based meats are here to stay.

Singapore was the first country to taste Tindle via 11 restaurant brands when it launched on March 18. From Butter Tindle Pot Pie at Adda by Manjunath Mural – former executive chef of the Michelin-starred The Song of India – to Kung Pao Tindle Chicken at Empress and Mediterranean rooftop bar Levant’s Tindle Chicken Manakish, the options are aplenty and varied.

Another chef, Adam Penney of Three Buns, had been dreaming up his Kiev burger recipe for 20 years but found it hard to keep butter within the chicken fillet without a mess. He is finally satisfied with his Tindle creation, From Russia with Love, says Madden who also shares that, “He’s not only created his perfect Kiev burger, but another Tindle burger as well. We’ve also seen more chefs fold in other ingredients as Tindle Thy can be easily moulded into different shapes, while providing the same bite and mouthfeel of real chicken.”

How did non-GMO Tindle Thy (pronounced thigh) with nine plant ingredients such as sunflower oil, soya and coconut fat measure up when The Peak tasted From Russia with Love and The Big Cease from Three Buns? Both were prepared with Tindle that had been deep- fried and each had a more tender bite than chicken meat. The Kiev burger’s Tindle patty is stuffed with miso and parsley butter, while the buttermilk Tindle fillet for the latter is topped with a creamy Caesar sauce. The overall results are tender and moist with a pretty convincing mouthfeel.

(Related: Animal meat might one day be a thing of the past – how can we keep up?)