Serial entrepreneur David Yeung wants billions of consumers to join him on a quest to transform Asian cuisine into a leaner, healthier, more environmentally friendly version. And his latest venture, Omnipork, may just be the product that brings people along on the journey.
Yeung has taken a staple of Asian cuisine and a growing trend in plant-based protein popular with Western diners, and re-imagined it for Asian tastes — challenging Asian consumers to help tackle climate change, animal welfare and environmental degradation from their plates.
But this summer, Yeung and his company, Right Treat, began serving consumers something new to chew on. Consumers got their first taste of Omnipork, the plant-based pork imitator, when it launched in Hong Kong restaurants in June. And in Green Common’s Kind Kitchen cafe, Omnipork-inspired creations now rank among the top-selling dishes on the menu.
Supermarket distribution is expected by the end of the year, where Yeung says it will be priced comparable to premium pork. And there are plans for international expansion within Asia over the coming months.
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The business opportunity for good tasting pork-less pork is astronomical. Pork is the most consumed meat in the world, particularly in Asia. It is so popular in China, where around 63 percent of the meat consumed is pork, it’s become synonymous with meat for many. And in Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan and South Korea, pork consumption is almost as high. Global pig meat consumption is forecast to grow by 11 percent over the decade up to 2027.
Like many of the new purpose-driven food brands emerging in the market, Right Treat has a goal for market disruption. But how do you get to the point of being chief pork disrupter?
Yeung says he is not after market domination. Instead, he wants to see other alternative meat innovations joining him to saturate the Asian market with good tasting plant-based proteins. As Yeung told Sustainable Brands, the more plant-based offerings that successfully tempt consumers to switch from meat, the better: “It’s very important. I want more people, more companies, more investors to be looking at this space particularly in Asia or globally. A handful of companies cannot change the world.”
But disruption at this level needs scale, which Yeung sees as one of his main challenges.
“Affecting ten thousand people, a hundred thousand people, even a million people might already sound like quite an achievement, but it’s still a drop in the ocean,” he said. “So, scaling Omnipork to the stage where it’s a disruptive force in the market is a big challenge. This isn’t software, so you're not going to have twenty million people start adopting Omnipork tomorrow.”
The goal, then, for Right Treat in its first year is to have as many different chefs as possible — in restaurants and at home — incorporating Omnipork into their menus.
Good-tasting Asian plant protein
Right Treat’s approach deliberately focuses on the desire to create plant-based protein, primed for Asian cuisine and tastes.
“Our focus is on Asian food because it happens that in this plant-based food revolution happening right now, you have a lot of scientists and innovators based outside Asia,” Yeung explains. “And by default, they are coming up with a lot of food that we eat more in Western cuisines, like chicken nuggets, burgers and sausages. We want to create products that can empower Asian cuisine.”
One of the possible success factors of Omnipork is its versatility as a minced “meat” to meet the needs of a variety of Asian dishes. Yeung says cooks can season it however they like, it can be steamed, pan-fried, roasted in the oven, and used as a stuffing for dumplings or tofu.
“And the feedback from Asian-inspired chefs is that they love this,” he says.
Drive for change
Yeung speaks passionately about the need for immediate action towards more sustainable food systems: “We have around seven billion people and we've got nine to ten billion very soon. We must change how we eat,” Yeung asserts. “We have huge problems in terms of health and environmental damage. For example, pigs are a major source of water pollution in China. But in general, livestock is not sustainable. It is insane to know that livestock is one the biggest sources of greenhouse gases, water pollution, water scarcity and land degradation, and is negatively impacting on public health — and that we aren’t doing more to tackle that.”
Yeung continued to stress the critical juncture at which we find ourselves, when it comes to prioritizing future sustainability.
“It's like the house is already burning down and people are still partying. Imagine one wing of the mansion is in flames but down the hall, most people are still chilling out and having a good time. It’s unbelievable.
“The truth is, if there was an alarm, we are already past the time that it’s gone off — that went off some five or ten years ago. It’s now time for everybody to wake up and do something about it.”