HN-Novatech launches seaweed heme ingredient in Singapore

28 Sep 2023

Korean food technology company HN-Novatech secures $4 million in funding and has unveiled a proprietary seaweed heme ingredient for healthy plant-based alternatives in Singapore.

In what the company hails to be the globe’s first proprietary seaweed heme ingredient for plant-based meat applications, HN-Novatech released ACOMS on the 16th August 2023 to the Singaporean market. ACOMS is the name of the protein found and extracted from seaweed. HN Novatech places ACOMS in plant-based meat primers, giving products a meat-mimicking flavour.

HN-Novatech launches seaweed heme ingredient in Singapore
Pictured: CEO, Kim Yang-hee with her team in Singapore. [From press release]

Upon its launch, HN Novatech invited a group of Southeast Asian investors to taste test the food material technology company’s signature ingredient. Intending to make a mark in the sustainable plant alternatives industry, HN Novatech has developed a protein extraction process and final product rendering stage that enables an additive and preservatives-free ingredient.

To date, South Korean HN Novatech has filed 19 patents. The company specialises in creating food ingredient alternatives designed to be environmentally-friendly and have a strong culinary and palate appeal for ingredient use, applicable for new and reformulated product development.

Expansion plans

HN Novatech has a five-year expansion plan. Beyond Singapore, the company plans to construct a food technology processing facility in Korea and hopes to become a globally acclaimed novel food materials leader.

Recognising that the alternative meat industry's surge in the US and Europe is mirrored in Asia, the company’s CEO Kim Yang-Hee is focusing on developing its research and development (R&D) capabilities with biotech engineers, food scientists, nutritionists and experienced professionals in business and sustainability. In 2023, Singapore has introduced new work visa rules that will prioritise applications from alternative protein food scientists.

“Singapore's appeal to multinational companies is bolstered by its strategic location, skilled workforce, and government support,” HN Novatech said. The company aims to seize this momentum by creating a presence in Singapore, positioning itself as a key player in the growing plant-based meat substitute market within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region.

Plant-based growth

The plant-based sector is “one of the most dynamic and innovation-driven segments of the food industry”, Silvia Alunni, policy officer of Plant-based Food Alliance, told Ingredients Network.

The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) became the first regulatory body to approve the sale of cultivated meat products in 2020, giving GOOD Meat’s cultivated chicken the go-ahead, making Singapore a natural choice to launch the ingredient.

In 2022, Singapore approved multiple new products, including new cultivated meat products and fermentation-derived ingredients, such as Solar Foods’ “protein from thin air”. The country, considered a world leader in cultivated meat R&D, also recommitted to food security through cellular agriculture. The move comes after neighbouring Malaysia banned live chicken exports from June to October of 2022, responding to burgeoning domestic food prices that affect a third of Singapore’s chicken supply.

Animal-free cultivated meat products were previously a significant hurdle to scaling production and lowering costs. However, in January 2023, Singapore gave regulatory approval for GOOD Meat to use animal-free cell growth media to create their already-approved cultivated chicken products.

Credit: © AdobeStock/New Africa© AdobeStock/New Africa

Novel foods are defined as “foods and food ingredients that do not have a history of safe use”, in Singapore. Ingredients developed through new production methods that are identical in chemistry to naturally occurring foods can, therefore, also be considered novel foods and meet the regulatory criteria under a novel foods framework.

Investment landscape

Globally, a lack of funding remains a core challenge facing plant-based manufacturers, posing a risk to the full and smooth development of the sector.

“The industry constantly invests in research and innovation (R&I) to develop increasingly sustainable and nutritious products,” Alunni says, commenting on latest developments in the meat-mimicking sector. Investments are mainly channelled towards further improving plant-based proteins' sustainability and functionality, refining processed products' organoleptic and nutritional properties, reducing their costs, and supporting the development of new processing technologies.

Singapore has, however, made progress toward self-sufficiency in protein production following further investments in cultivated meat, the Good Food Institute (GFI) APAC says in its State of Global Policy report.

Singapore boosted funding for the Singapore Food Story R&D Programme’s second phase, the 2022 report states, which includes “developing future foods,” with an additional SGD 165 million (€115 million) in addition to the agreed SGD 144 million ($101 million) in 2020.

HN Novatech has received $4 million in funding in its Series-A bridge round, with Logan Ventures becoming its lead investor. Total funding in Singapore has amounted to up to approximately $254 million (€238 million), the GFI report states.

The HN Novatech fundraiser event took place during an investment landscape which has seen the most significant drop in global venture funding. The company has secured its investment “despite extremely tough funding environment”, it said. In the first half of 2023, startup funding decreased by 48%, with many companies struggling to raise capital throughout the rest of the year.

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