Plant-based Food Alternatives

Most of us consume meat as our main source of protein, but how does meat impact our health and the environment? There are many plant-based meat alternatives on the market now, but what plant ingredients are necessary to replicate the flavour, texture, colour and nutritional benefits of meat? We answer all these questions and more in this plant-based article by our food team.

Rich plant-based history

Plant-based foods are nothing new to South East Asia, with people familiar with Tofu, Tempeh and mock meat for centuries now. Despite the long history of plant-based foods coming out of Eastern Asia, they are still on the rise with noticeable spikes in the last 4-5 years due to people’s concern about meat consumption’s impact on their health and environment.

Impact of meat consumption

Meat consumption can impact health by increasing the risk of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity, inflammatory bowel diseases, non-alcoholic fatty liver and infertility. In terms of environmental impact, the production and processing of livestock require a lot of resources such as energy, land and water. Furthermore, research by the University of Oxford found that even the most environmentally damaging plant milk is better for the planet than cow’s milk, as cow’s milk has a significantly higher impact across all metrics. Livestock causes a lot of pollution from animal excretion and wastewater and contributes greatly to global warming from significant methane emissions into the atmosphere. 

Plant-based alternatives are taking off

With food technology continuously advancing the development and variety of applications for plant-based foods, consumer choices are rapidly increasing. Let’s take for example plant-based seafood. For this application, food technologists are challenged with mimicking and improving taste and texture as close to real seafood, using only plant-based ingredients. People are now actively trying and incorporating alternative protein sources such as plant-based meats into their diets – the future is exciting and bright in this fast-growing food sector.

In South East Asia, Singapore emerges as the leader in facilitating the development of alternative proteins, in part due to government support. Meanwhile, in Thailand, more than 5 plant-based brands launched within the last year with expansion into quick-service restaurant chains this year. ​ The plant-based trend has the potential to increase in the coming years presenting opportunities for all players in the plant-based protein field in South East Asia.

What are meat minimisers looking for?

The main composition of meat (excluding water) is protein and fat. When substituting meat with plant-based alternatives in food, several factors need to be considered. Besides compensating for the nutritional differences between animal and plant-based meats, texture and flavour profile changes must also be considered. As a result, it is vital to use the right plant ingredients to compensate for nutritional deficits and improve the food texture. Let us continue to see some of the key ingredients to use for plant-based food alternatives. 

Plant-based proteins

Plant protein can be isolated from beans, peas, rice, grains etc.

There are many forms of ingredients for a variety of applications such as:

– Isolated plant protein: Helps formulate in-demand protein and provides textures such as ‘smooth’ and ‘creamy’ as well as emulsification properties for improving food attributes.

– Extruded structure protein: People in South East Asia are familiar with mock meat from soy and pea protein. It was created to imitate meat texture.

Plant-based proteins are the key ingredient for replacing animal proteins in terms of nutrition and the texture and structure of foods. On a side note, allergens from plant sources need to be considered. 

Gums and stabilisers

The function of gums can improve water-holding capacity, enhance emulsification, and play a role in texture. A proper ratio of Carrageenan, Methyl Cellulose, Agar Agar or Konjac can mimic the texture of real meat, even seafood textures like shrimp or squid.

Colours and flavour enhancers

Colours and flavour enhancers help to improve plant-based food appearance and flavour. Flavour enhancers such as MSG, glycine, and even vegetable stock, can make plant-based food more savoury. While red, purple, pink, orange, and even white colour tones can mimic the beige colour of real meat in plant-based proteins.

Plant-based opportunities

Food technology is continuously advancing with new innovations in response to the many new business opportunities offered by the plant-based food market. New plant-based products are being launched continuously, with ingredients companies constantly searching for and providing solutions for the next big vegan proteins, meat substitutes, and dairy replacements.

New innovations

During the recent Food ingredients Asia 2022 Exhibition in Bangkok, Jebsen and Jessen Ingredients proudly exhibited new plant-based food innovations during the 3-day exhibit. From our many prototypes, it was primarily the plant-based foods that received the most attention from participants and influencers. Here are the highlights from our new plant-based prototypes from FiA 2022.

Plant-based cooked shrimp

The critical ingredient is a blend of stabiliser and pea protein that creates a realistic texture close to real cooked shrimp. The stabiliser system is designed for convenient processing. This is an innovation for plant-based seafood. In addition, glycine is added as a flavour enhancer and natural colour to mimic the look of cooked shrimp. Say goodbye to seafood allergies with our new delicious plant-based shrimp.

Can you believe this is plant-based shrimp?
Can you believe this is plant-based shrimp?

Breaded plant-based Ebi Ball

Our plant-based ebi ball is based on our plant-based cooked shrimp, which we further developed into a breaded ebi ball snack bite. This is an excellent example of added benefits and opportunities for business development and product innovation when creating plant-based foods. 

Hot Pink Plant-Based Protein Shake

High protein drink with natural plant-based colour. A glass of 350 ml contains 20 g of protein. This is an alternative to dairy products made with pea protein which does not cause allergic reactions in the general consumer. The uniqueness of our pea protein is high dispersibility, reduction in cooked flavour without astringent effect, while light in colour and no powdery consistency when drinking. 

Plant-based Ebi Ball and Hot Pink Plant-based Protein Shake
Plant-based Ebi Ball and Hot Pink Plant-based Protein Shake

If you are interested in plant-based products or ingredients, please connect with the Jebsen & Jessen Ingredients Food team. Together with our world-leading technology partners, we are ready to support your product development and to be your solution for plant-based innovations. Find out more on our food page:


Southeast Asia's Plant-Based Food Market: New Consumer Behaviors Post-Pandemic

The Rise of Plant-Based Foods in Southeast Asia (2021)

Climate change: Which vegan milk is best?

Consumption of processed red meat and its impact on human health: A review

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About Jebsen & Jessen Ingredients

Jebsen & Jessen Ingredients is a leading solutions provider and distributor of specialty chemicals and life science ingredients covering a wide range of industrial and manufacturing applications. Our expert technical sales and responsive customer service teams connect technologies from our world-leading partners to thousands of manufacturers across South East Asia and China. 

In business for over 60 years, we operate six regional business lines: Coating & Resins, Plastics & Rubber, Performance Chemicals, Feed, Food, and Pharmaceuticals & Personal Care. Leveraging our local presence, technical expertise and extensive portfolios, we solve our customers’ problems and keep them updated with the latest market intelligence and trends, creating maximum value for all of our stakeholders and helping bring innovative products to market faster.

  • Direct presence in 8 countries including emerging markets, with local-language technical sales and customer service staff at 17 locations
  • Locally present and regionally integrated distribution partner, with regional technical sales and distribution network covering all of ASEAN and China
  • World-class, certified warehouses in each market
  • 600m² of regional innovation labs provide customers and technology partners with outstanding development and application opportunities
  • Distributing 100,000+ tonnes of specialty chemicals and ingredients annually
  • More than 175 technology partners, including many of the world’s leading brands, serving 4,000 customers throughout the region
  • The Jebsen & Jessen Group was the first industrial company in South East Asia to achieve 100% carbon neutrality (since 2011)


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