First Look: Singapore’s plant-based HAPPIEE! launches in Malaysia, and it is all about the flavours and happiness (of course) 

HAPPIEE! plant-based food range

 Singapore’s food tech start-up and leading plant-based nutrition pioneer, Growthwell Foods and Country Farms Group, a wholly-owned entity of Berjaya Corporation Berhad has joined hands in launching HAPPIEE! in Malaysia. This exclusive distribution partnership will have HAPPIEE! available at selected AEON supermarkets in Malaysia.

From Growthwell Foods press release, here’s what we need to know:

Created by Growthwell Foods Innovation and R&D Manufacturing Centre, HAPPIEE! plant-based food is dedicated to enabling consumers to easily adopt plant-based options by providing sustainable and highly nutritious plant-based alternatives to seafood and chicken, without compromising on taste.

“Country Farms Group is thrilled to partner with Growthwell Foods in launching its HAPPIEE! plant-based food products in Malaysia. With more Malaysians choosing to adopt veganism, vegetarianism, or flexitarian diets due to a growing desire to improve their health and wellbeing, demand for plant-based alternatives in food and beverage continues to rise. HAPPIEE! plant-based food is well-positioned to meet the needs of consumers, demonstrating that highly nutritious plant-based food can be readily available and enjoyed from the comfort of their own homes,” said Louis Kho, Group Managing Director and CEO of the Country Farms Group.

A Quick Snapshot

Launched in…Jan 2022

Initial investment…Seed Investment in 2020 – US$8 million, Series A in 2021 – US$22 mill

Available in…Singapore, at over 80 retail outlets and 100 restaurants. Malaysia, at selected AEON Mall supermarkets

Production per month…The company launched Singapore’s first fully automated large-scale production line for plant-based products with its state-of-the-art R&D and manufacturing centre at JTC Foodhub Senoko in November 2021. The centre is able to produce 4,000 metric tonnes of products each year.

Here, Set the Tables interviewed Manuel Bossi, Group CEO about why do we need another plant-based product, how Growthwell is disrupting the industry and exciting plans ahead.

Manuel Bossi, Group CEO of Growthwell Foods
What distinguishes Growthwell from other plant-based businesses?

Growthwell Foods started as a family-run business with over 30 years of history in the region as well as the F&B industry.

Family ownership brings stability and long-term commitment to our vision of providing plant- based nutrition for Asian palates. At the same time, we are also able to leverage 30 years of experience from our plant-based pioneers to create products with authentic Asian flavours.

Recognising the importance of satisfying the taste buds of consumers, we also constantly innovate to make our offerings uniquely Asian and deliciously plant-based. We have invested in ChickP, which is the first company in the world to isolate a 90% concentration of chickpea protein. Chickpea is a complete protein, high in fibre and minerals with a neutral taste. This represents tremendous potential for innovation as we can use it in a wide range of product offerings. We are also one of the few companies to use konjac, which is high in fibre and low in calories, as a base for our products.

Can you tell us a bit more about how Growthwell is disrupting the food-tech industry?

At Growthwell Foods, our mission is to nourish a billion lives all over the world with accessible and affordable plant-based alternatives. Our facilities include the first fully automated large-scale production line for plant-based protein in Singapore.

Together with our production facility in Malaysia, we can achieve a great economy of scale.

This is an important step for us to make our plant-based offerings more affordable. Taking our HAPPIEE! Fishiee Sticks from our seafood alternative portfolio as an example, we have already achieved price parity with conventional options.

Our production facilities are also strategically located to be closer to consumers. This decision minimises supply chain disruptions and enables us to have faster a response time, thus ensuring that our plant-based products are easily accessible.

We also recognize that changing long-held dietary habits is not an easy task and takes time.

We aim to convince people to switch to plant-based food by creating nutritious plant-based alternatives that taste just like the real thing. We will continue to innovate to create more plant-based alternatives to satisfy consumers’ demands of taste, nutrition, price, and variety.

Image Credit: HAPPIEE!
What has your company’s experience been like in raising money? You recently raised $22 million in Q3 last year. What unexpected challenges did you face? What advice do you have for business owners who want to raise money?

It has been a very exciting time for us at Growthwell Foods.

The plant-based protein market has grown rapidly over the past few years and the momentum has shown no signs of stopping. The market size in Asia-Pacific is expected to reach $64.8 billion by 2030, up from $13.5 billion in 2020.

Investors recognise the potential of plant-based protein. More importantly, they recognise what sets us apart from other plant-based companies. They see our tremendous potential and value from what we have on offer.

We are very appreciative of the support that we have received from our investors and we hope to continue enjoying a good working relationship with them. Even though the investment scene has cooled down a bit in 2022, great companies with unique IP will continue to drive strong investors’ interest.

What was the recipe testing process like for achieving the taste and texture of your plant- based seafood and chicken products?

R&D is extremely important for us. We are constantly on the lookout for up-and-coming and innovative technology to enhance the taste and texture of our food.

We are also not afraid to experiment, trying out various techniques and ingredients to not only create new products but also to improve our current offerings. We go through countless iterations and conduct taste tests with different groups of people to ensure that we get the taste and texture right.

Growthwell Foods boasts the first production-scale high moisture extrusion (HME) line owned by a local SME in Singapore. This has enabled us to significantly improve the texture of our plant-based products. We are also able to minimise the use of additives in our products. We also use ingredients like konjac, which enables us to mimic the texture of seafood quite closely.

The market seemingly exploded with new plant-based meat alternatives over the last few years. Why do you think that this space is now resonating with consumers?

Consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about climate change and sustainability. Issues like overfishing, food wastage, and inefficiency of current conventional farming methods are increasingly being spotlighted in recent years.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated awareness and increased the urgency to transition to a sustainable food system. As a result, consumers are more eager and open to making a change by exploring alternative protein sources.

Consumers are also becoming more aware of the health and wellness benefits of incorporating plant-based options into their diet. There is growing interest among consumers to try plant-based meat alternatives due to health concerns associated with excessive meat consumption.

Food technology has also been progressing rapidly over the last few years. We are starting to see more plant-based products with taste and texture that are very close to the real thing.

What are the future plans for this partnership?

We have plans for our products to be available in more retail and foodservice outlets across Malaysia. At the same time, we are also in talks with multiple restaurants in Malaysia to roll out a special offering on their menus to provide diners with an opportunity to taste and experience plant-based goodness with HAPPIEE! Products.

HAPPIEE! range of chicken popcorn
In your opinion, what could be the next plant-based trend or technology to transform the plant-based sector?

We at Growthwell Foods strongly believe that chickpeas have the potential to be a game- changer. Chickpea is a complete protein, high in fibre and minerals with a neutral taste. This represents tremendous potential for innovation as we can use it in a wide range of product offerings.

Sustainability has always been mentioned in the same conversation when talking about plant-based food. Chickpeas are not only versatile in application, but they are a highly sustainable crop as well.

Not only do they have a higher water-use-efficiency compared to nuts but they are also very resilient, and able to effectively adapt to drought and heat stress, making it feasible to grow them in semi-arid climates.

They can also make the topsoil more fertile by bringing nitrogen back to the soil. This is made even more important when experts believe that we might no longer have any usable topsoil within 60 years.

We have already acquired the patented 90% chickpea protein isolate and are currently looking at ways to produce even better tasting and nutritious plant-based alternatives with it.

Moving forward…

HAPPIEEE! will also partner with iconic restaurants and eateries within the region to roll out special dishes made from HAPPIEE! plant-based food products later this year.

Find out more about Growthwell Foods at:
Website: http://growthwellfoods.com/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/growthwell-foods/

Image credit: Growthwell Foods 

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