Week of 29 July 2019

Your burger is killing the planet

Hello, and welcome to The Deep Dive—a weekly close-up look at an idea, issue or trend that's shaping Asia's future. We’re happy to have you with us. Please send your comments, questions and favourite non-dairy milks to

Hosting a dinner party sounds like a good idea for about two minutes. But right as you start brainstorming the meal, you remember everyone's dietary preferences.

Gina recently discovered she's allergic to gluten. Chris is on a red meat cleanse. Allen is paleo so only meat. Alicia is flexetarian so she won't really know until the day of.

In case you haven't heard, meat is not cool and it's killing the planet. From concerns over health to carbon footprint, people are clamouring for plant-based menus.

To meet the demand, investors are throwing money at any plant that will mutate into a meat (see: Impossible Burger, Beyond Meat, Omnipork, Phuture Foods). It's no joke. In 2017, the global meat substitutes market was worth US$4.1 billion. By 2025, that's expected to nearly double in value to US$7.5 billion, with Asia-Pacific projected to grow at the highest rate at 9.4 percent from 2018 to 2025.

The hype is real. But are all of the perks? Were humans designed to be herbivores? Is our veggie burger really going to save the planet? How do you even throw a dinner party these days? Let's take a deep dive.



"We’re on the cusp of a global shift in the way we think about food. It’s only natural—think of food supply, sustainability, waste and carbon emissions. Vegetarianism is a proposition to approach these issues. It’s a solution to a very real, very looming problem. People simply can’t turn their backs on it any longer. "
David Yeung, Founder and CEO of Green Monday




Food production is responsible for about 25 percent of the greenhouse-gas emissions heating up the planet. A large portion of that comes from meat production, which takes much more energy to produce than fruits and vegetables.


Veganism comes with costs, the greatest arguably being the cheeseboard. But have no fear, alt-cheeses are not far behind alt-meats. Here are six vegan cheese start-ups in Asia that could satisfy your cheese fix using nuts, seeds and beans as ingredients.


Drop that almond milk latte. You may think you're saving the planet with your dairy alternative, but think about this: It takes 6,098 litres of water to produce a single litre of almond milk. With 80 percent of the almonds coming from California, you'e basically fuelling the drought there. Try soy.


Four of the world's biggest five vegetarian markets are in Asia. India, Indonesia, Pakistan and China come in at the top with following vegetarian populations: 29.8 percent, 25.4 percent, 16.8 percent, and 3.8 percent, respectively. 


Tofu may be the modern vegetarian's chicken, but it's been around for millennia. Legend has it that bean curd was first discovered 2,000 years ago in China when a cook accidentally curdled soya milk with nigari seaweed.


5 Stories To Get You Up To Speed
  1. The Veganism Boom Does More For Food Company Profits Than The Planet
    The Financial Times
  2. Asia’s Vegetarian Culture Fuelled A Global Trend. But Is Going Meatless Good For Your Health?
    The South China Morning Post
  3. Vegan Pork In Hong Kong, Impossible Burgers In Singapore: How Investors Grew Fat On Asia’s Fad For Mock Meat
    The South China Morning Post
  4. WeWork’s New Food Policy Is Every Libertarian's Nightmare
    Vanity Fair
  5. Will We Ever Stop Eating Animal Meat?
    The Atlantic





Why Fake Meat Is The Future

Can plant-based meat move beyond the hype to become a viable alternative that helps our ailing planet?


What's the carbon footprint of your diet?
According to a recent study of diets in the United Kingdom, you can cut your carbon footprint in half if you cut out meat. 

"Heavy meat eaters" = >3.5 ounces of meat/day
"Medium meat eaters" = 1.7-3.5 ounces/day
"Low meat eaters" = <1.7 ounces/day

Source: Scarborhough et al. (2012)


Alternative products you need to know

David Yeung
Hong Kong-based David Yeung is the founder and CEO of Green Monday, a social startup tackling climate change and food insecurity. Yeung's meat alternative, Omnipork, is aimed at the Mainland China market, where 65 percent of all meat consumed is pork. 

Impossible Foods
Patrick Brown
Pat Brown founded California-based Impossible Foods, which develops plant-based substitutes to meat and dairy products. Since its launch in 2011, the company has raised over US$300 million in funding. Impossible meat is available in at least 150 restaurants in Hong Kong and Macau, and just announced eight participating restaurants in Singapore. 

Toni Petersson
If you're one of the lucky few to snag a carton of Oatly from the market, then you know how superior this dairy alternative is to any soy/almond/whatever milk out there. The Swedish-based company has a magical recipe to oat milk, and CEO Toni Patterson wants to use it to unlock the China market, where 85 percent of the country is lactose intolerant. On top of a new regional base in Shanghai, Oatly unveiled a new Chinese character for “vegan milk”, which combines the symbol for “plant” with the character for “milk” in an effort to better communicate the product which is normally marked as “oat nectar”.

Gen.T Spotlight

Three honourees to follow

Daphne Cheng
The first female vegetatian chef to be invited to cook at the James Beard Foundation 

Peggy Chan
A pioneer of the plant-based eating movement in Hong Kong since she opened her restaurant, Grassroots Pantry, in 2012.

Kezia Toemion
The co-founder of ESQA Cosmetics, the first vegan cosmetics line in Indonesia 


In case you didn't read anything in this newsletter, plant-based meats are a big deal right now. But some food chains are less than enthused. One has gone so far as to mock the trend by creating a meat-based vegetable—a carrot made from turkey called the "marrot".




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