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The Top 10 APAC food and beverage start-up stories in 2021

WATCH: ‘High quality, no alcohol’: UAE’s first non-alcoholic online drink marketplace Drink Dry takes first foray into supermarkets

The UAE’s first premium non-alcoholic drinks online marketplace, Drink Dry, has entered the retail space with its first partner, supermarket chain Choithrams, with the firm exploiting a gap in the market for sophisticated booze-free offerings.

The company started off as an e-commerce store in December 2020, selling non-alcoholic beer, sparkling wine, still wine, and booze-free spirits, mainly imported from Europe.

The partnership will see Drink Dry retail its full range of non-alcoholic drinks across five Choithrams stores in Dubai.

The company is hoping to retail its products across all of Choithrams’ stores by September this year. Choithrams has over 40 stores in the UAE.

‘Healthiest ice cream on the planet’: India’s Habbit launches zero-sugar, low-fat, minimum-calorie Wise Creams

India-based Habbit Health and Nutrition has launched a range of what it claims to be ‘the healthiest ice creams on the planet’ dubbed Wise Creams, containing zero sugar, low fat content and no more than 50 calories per serving.

According to Habbit Founder and CEO Dhruv Bhushan, the technology behind the development of the Wise Creams is ‘light years ahead’​ of the industry, having managed to bring calories down from the general 250kcal or 260kcal per serving to between 30 to 50 kcal.

“This is the healthiest ice cream ever made on the planet, with less calories than half an apple and far less than a cookie, but tasting exactly the same as regular ice cream,”​ Bhushan told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

‘Biggest dairy breakthrough since pasteurisation’: Aussie firm set to launch high-nutrient, high-digestibility milk products this year

Australia-based Naturo is set to launch its high-nutrient, high-digestibility fresh milk products processed without pasteurisation this year, using world-first technology that will also allow for extended shelf life.

According to Naturo Founder and CEO Jeff Hastings, Naturo will be launching a range of nutrient-rich milk products with high digestibility and long shelf-life in March to April this year under the Wholey Milk Company brand.

“We will start with select retail outlets in Queensland first before expanding production and supply nationally, and then internationally in 2022,”​ Hastings told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

‘Many firsts’: India’s Axia Foods develops world’s first vegan butter and cheese made from almond

An Indian-based plant-based start-up which created the world’s first almond-cheese protein bars is now branching out into almond-based cheese and butter products, also claiming to be global firsts.

Developed under the Prochez brand, Axia Foods launched the almond cheese and butter earlier this year.

Jasmine Shaikh, founder and CEO, said: “There were protein bars containing almond as a small ingredient, and almond milk, but there was no almond cheese or yoghurt​.

It is difficult to make yoghurt or cheese from almond because it has a briny texture, and it requires a long fermentation period​.”

Signature Market for healthy snacks: Malaysian firm on a mission to become the Trader Joe’s of South East Asia

Malaysian healthy snacks firm Signature Market has ambitious hopes to launch of four to six new healthy snacks a week as it pursues its mission to become the Trader Joe’s of South East Asia.

Signature Market comprises of an online platform and a huge variety of its own manufactured products, and has also set a target to launch four to six innovative yet healthy new products weekly on Wednesdays.

“The target is to eventually reach 2,000 SKUs so we’ve still got a ways to go, but this is a main priority and we’re making huge investments in our R&D to make this happen, as we believe FMCG is all about innovation,”​ Signature Market CEO and Co-Founder Edwin Wang told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

Manny Pacquiao’s coffee brand to pack a punch in Middle East as distributor expands Filipino range

Importer and distributor SandBox has signed exclusive distribution agreements with Filipino brands including Pacquiao coffee and Oh So Healthy snacks to launch products in the UAE and GCC region.

Oh So Healthy (OSH) is a healthy snack company based in the Philippines producing fruit crisps. Pacquiao 3-in-1 Coffee is a brand co-owned and developed by Filipino boxer, Manny Pacquiao which launched in the Philippines only in April this year.

Pacquiao himself worked on the product development process and the manufacturer to produce his coffee. The coffee is fortified with moringa extract (malunggay), which is rich in antioxidants.

We hope to capitalise on the wellness trend, and at the same time, expand our reach to a wider audience beyond the overseas Filipino workers​,” said SandBox CEO Lito German.

Nu approach: Egg firm Nuyolk plans clinical study to validate health claims of astaxanthin fortification

Singapore fortified egg firm NuYolk, which goes beyond the traditional addition of omega-3 to include asataxanthin, selenium and a range of vitamins, is planning to conduct clinical studies to validate their benefits.

Most fortified eggs in the market typically contain single ingredients such as omega-3 fatty acids (DHA or ALA), or some are fortified with vitamin E or selenium.

However, Nuyolk created an ambitious blend of nutrients that have been studied extensively on an individual basis for their health benefits. In particular, it contains astaxanthin, which is an antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory properties.

There are also studies of it relieving skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, decrease wrinkles and age spots, and increase elasticity.

Can do approach: Fast-growing China firm Genki Forest unveils canned sparkling water strategy for Singapore and US

Chinese beverage company Genki Forest launched eight sparkling flavoured water in canned versions in Singapore and US, following its PET bottled drinks.

The company produces ready-to-drink beverages ranging from sparkling water, milk tea, and oolong tea and is one of the fastest growing beverage companies in China, with an expected valuation of RMB14bn (US$2bn) this year.

The eight canned water products are inspired by global fruit flavours which include plum, grape, lychee, peach and yoghurt among others.

The canned varieties are the same formulation as those in the bottled version.

WATCH: ‘Quarter of the price of competition’: Singapore’s Shandi Global gears up for plant-based chicken launch

Earlier in the year, Singapore plant-based meat start-up Shandi Global was looking to launch five plant-based chicken products using its unique protein isolation method to convert amino acids into flavour, at a price point said to be one quarter of many competitors.

The five plant-based products of patties, shreds, pieces, strips and drumsticks emulate chicken in terms of taste and texture. The start-up founded in October 2019 is helmed by CEO, Dr Reena Sharma, and chief advisor, Dr Gaurav Sharma.

Shandi chose to develop chicken products as it is the most consumed animal protein worldwide.

Gaurav said: “We agree that animal meat is not good for health and environment, but switching to meat alternatives should not compromise on the taste, nutrition and diversity of the food​.”

Pioneering oats: Start-up Bevry aims to be the ‘Oatly’ of India with new product development pipeline

Oat milk start-up Bevry has sets its sights on becoming the ‘Oatly of India’ with a new product development pipeline that includes a cold brew coffee series.

The company claims to be the first brand in India to manufacture and sell oat milk in the country.

According to Bevry’s co-founder Pradeep Sanker, the company has taken Sweden’s Oatly as inspiration. The company was established in 2019 by three co-founders, who were studying in Australia at that time. It was around the same time that Oatly entered Australia, capturing much interest for its oat milk beverages.

According to Sanker, the plant-based dairy alternative market was growing in India, where plant-based milk made from soy, rice, and hazelnut were popular, but the oat milk market was relatively untouched.

I think it’s because oat milk is much more complicated than other milk alternatives, in terms of manufacturing​.”


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