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Demand for plant-based meat alternatives has soared over the years as research found that these products are more environmentally friendly and better for animal welfare than conventional meat.
Based on the Packaged Facts’ new report “Meat, Poultry, & Seafood Alternatives: Plant-Based and Cell-Cultured Types, 2nd Edition”, many consumers also think that plant-based meat is healthier than conventional meat, and may turn to these products for reasons of health.
In food production, innovation has always been an important aspect in the growth and expansion of a business. One way to innovate food experiences is to partake in sustainable food practices.
WTH Foods, a local manufacturer of plant-based meats in Metro Manila and Cebu, is aiming to do just that. According to Carissa Lim, co-founder and chief operating officer of the WTH Foods, the company is looking to make the plant-based lifestyle accessible to Filipinos “through a delicious, nutritious and sustainable meat alternative.”
Lim said this mission led the food technology startup to expand its portfolio through UMANI, which was founded with the goal to help feed 10 billion by 2050 through plant-based Filipino products.
A combination of the Japanese word “umami” or “delicious” and Filipino word “ani” or “harvest”, UMANI offers frozen product line that includes Smoked Sausages, Burgers, Meatballs, Ground Meat, Sisig, Tapa, Tuna and a seasonal Holiday Ham.
Made from soy and wheat protein, as well as microalgae, UMANI products are 100% plant-based, and are good source of protein and fiber, cholesterol-free and trans fat-free. Being plant-based, they have no added hormones or antibiotics—and all are fully-cooked, ready to heat, and easy to prepare.
WTH Foods has been operating in the Philippines and in Singapore since 2019. It is owned by Lim and two other business partners CEO and Co-founder Stephen Co and Co-founder and Chief Science Officer Carlo Ng, who have extensive backgrounds in bioscience and food manufacturing.
“We, at WTH Foods, innovate food experiences and transform the way the world eats one plate at a time,” Lim told The Philippine Star in an interview.
“We hope to raise awareness on nutrition, sustainability and food security, and find new ways to satisfy the population's dietary protein requirements,” Lim said.
The company has a pilot-kitchen at Botany by WTH in Makati City, pop up stores in some community bazaars as well as branches of Umani Bistro nationwide—serving comfort dishes using its plant-based meats such as sausages, ham, sisig, tapa, crab bites and tuna. Its first branch is in Promenade, Greenhills.
Surviving the pandemic
As with all businesses, WTH was also hit by the effects of the pandemic. Undeterred, Lim said the company’s R&D team has taken advantage of this time to focus on in-house laboratory work such as formulating new products.
“Overnight, our Botany pilot kitchen lost 70% of our business,” Lim shared of their company’s struggles during the pandemic.
“As a small business, our immediate concerns were our staff and survival,” she added.
Lim said the food tech brand quickly shifted to take-outs and deliveries during the pandemic as “we’ve come to accept this new business norm.”
“In some ways, the pandemic has generated a general concern for health, and awareness on livestock farming and its risks to emergence of zoonotic diseases and onset of epidemic and pandemic situations,” she said.
“We make sure that our [amazing] plant-based meals and snacks are available for dine in, for pick up and for delivery. We’re open daily from Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 12 a.m.,” she added.
Seafood brand and next steps
Lim said the food tech startup will focus on developing its seafood line in the future.
Its seafood product is enriched with microalgae, which contains Omega-3 for healthy hearts and healthy ageing. “We use microalgae for food applications, such as plant-based seafood, beverages, sauces and high-moisture extrusion.”
“Our R&D will develop our microalgae solutions for biomass supply, extraction of value ingredients, and development and isolation of our own strain,” she said.
Products that are coming soon include tapa, tuna and crab bites, Lim shared.
Lim said the plant-based food brand has been collaborating with several universities, R&D institutions and local government agencies nationwide and outside the country to expand their reach in the market.
She added the company plans to export its products to Southeast Asian countries as well as in the Middle East, Europe and North America in the next few years.
“We expect to grow in terms of distribution and register the products with appropriate regulatory agencies for global expansion and presence in Asia Pacific and Europe. We would collaborate with other businesses and improve accessibility to our products and services,” she said.
You can also visit Botany, a plant-based test kitchen in Nipa Brew Taproom & Brewhouse, found along Kamagong Street in Makati, and any Umani Bistros nationwide.
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