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Plant-based meats: alt-yakiniku, courtesy of Next Meats, hits Singapore

The Tokyo-based start-up crafts the slices from soybean powder - and not much else.

It’s been an exciting couple of years for the nascent alternative protein industry. We’re not just talking about the big players like Beyond and Impossible, with their beet and heme-infused patties respectively. We’ve had faux eggs. We’ve had jackfruit-turned-pork. And we’ve had lab grown chicken – prepped in a bioreactor and commercially viable. 

That’s massive for consumers looking to try out alt-proteins – particularly for those who aren’t fond of veggies – though, of course, the barrier of eating something born from a test tube still remains. 

It also doesn’t necessarily mean that good ol’ plant-based is passe. Next Meats, a food-tech venture headed by CEO Hideyuki Sasaki, was established in June just last year (though the company’s journey technically began a little earlier in 2017 when product development first started). Their goal is simple: combating worldwide protein deficiencies and reducing global meat-production emissions in one fell swoop, thanks to biotech. 

Speaking of biotech, Next Meats have managed to whip up their alternative meat products with a combination of proprietary technology and scientific expertise, essentially moulding soy proteins from powder into their signature vegan substitutes. 

Nextmeats alternative meat

“It’s all about applying our knowledge of temperature, pressure, and moisture control, gained through our years of research,” says Next Meats’ team. It’s the versatility of the vegetable protein moulding that allows the company to steadily expand its range of products by replicating different meaty flavours and textures. Along the way, they’ve managed to create a product that’s purportedly higher in protein and lower in fat than conventional beef, with an added bonus of zero chemical additives.

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Which brings us to their first product to debut locally, plant-based yakiniku meat. Fittingly, they’ve opted for a consummate grilled meat specialist with massive reach – Aburi-En. The family-friendly restaurant’s affordable, if delicious, grilled dons have always been swathed by various cuts of meat, including prized A5 Miyazaki Wagyu.

Now though, they’ve got two meat-free options. The kalbi don set serves Next Meat’s faux kalbi grilled on a bed of rice, while the plant-based meat is stir-fried with cabbage and topped with an imported Okinawan egg in the Stamina teishoku set. Both, naturally, come with Aburi-En’s housemade umami-rich sauce – which is also vegetarian and vegan-friendly, though it should be noted that the sauce contains garlic and onion.   

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Other faux meat products in Next Meats’ portfolio include plant-based gyudon beef, hamburg steaks and chicken strips, some of which are available in Japanese supermarkets.

Apart from Singapore, they’re making plans to launch in both the North and South American subcontinent, as well as Europe. They’re also looking to experiment with other types of protein – including algae, a crop that’s seeing plenty of research due to its varied utilities as biofuel source, fertilizer and now, potential protein mine.

For more information, head to the Next Meats website.