The Product-Market Fit Recipe For Plant-Based Meat In APAC - Next-Gen Meats #6

Green Rebel shares their secret formula for developing plant-based products that are stirring the appetites of markets across APAC.

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Happy Tuesday Market Shakers. Today we bring you an exclusive interview with Indonesia’s leading plant-based meat startup, Green Rebel. CEO and Co-founder Helga Angelina Tjahjadi joined us to tell us about the strong roots of their growth in APAC.

Green Rebel: One of APAC’s Fastest-Growing Plant-Based Brands

Green Rebel defines itself as Indonesia’s leading plant-based food-tech startup. It makes a range of plant-based dishes adapted for the Asian palate, such as “Beefless Rendang” and “Chick’n Katsu”. Its products are sold in food service channels and through digital and physical retail channels. 

From a distribution standpoint, its “leading” label is well won. Since launching in 2020, Green Rebel has grown its presence to over 1000 food service outlets across Indonesia and over 100 retail stores. 

Our retail products are stocked in Burgreens — Indonesia’s largest vegan eatery chain that we also own — as well as Food Hall, Ranch Market, Grand Lucky, Hypermart, and Lotte Mart. You can also find Green Rebel products on the menus of food service outlets like Starbucks, Fore Coffee, Domino’s, Abuba Steakhouse, HolySteak, and Burgreens, as well as international hotels like Marriott, Westin, and Shangri-La.

Green Rebel also expanded to Singapore and Malaysia, and the Philippines last year. In Singapore, they launched through restaurants such as Love Handle and The Dragon Chamber, and through select FairPrice Finest supermarkets. In 2023, the company has its sights set on other budding plant-based markets in APAC, including South Korea and Vietnam.

As the company has mushroomed, it has seen a 10-fold increase in sales according to Helga. So, what has enabled Green Rebel to grow so quickly? 

An oversubscribed 10 million USD pre-series A last year is part of the answer. But - and this is certainly what attracted so many investors to the company - so too is their success in finding product-market fit in the emerging APAC market for plant-based meat. 

The Key Ingredients For Plant-Based Growth In APAC

Despite signs of growing demand, APAC is still not an easy market to launch a plant-based product in. In Indonesia for example, where Green Rebel started out, the traditional diet is semi-vegetarian, and cheap organic fruit and vegetables are plentiful. The general consumer cannot understand why they should pay more to eat the same foods that have been processed to look like meat.

In other words, Indonesia’s consumers are hard to please when it comes to plant-based. Regardless of whether you’re targeting the unaware average consumer or the favorable flexitarian, products need to be high quality and speak to what consumers need. In this respect, Green Rebel has been uniquely positioned to deliver value.

Strong Foundations

In 2013, Green Rebel’s vegan co-founders Helga and Max established Burgreens, believed to be Indonesia’s largest plant-based restaurant chain.

To be honest, we were a little ahead of the plant-based trend and we put in a lot of effort in market education and were starting to see some traction as plant-based alt proteins started to become more popular in Indonesia.

When COVID-19 forced them to close their restaurants the duo had to pivot. They decided to turn their best-selling Burgreens dishes into frozen food items. This way, consumers in Indonesia could continue to enjoy Burgreens’ dishes by conveniently preparing them in the safety of their own homes. 

Helga and Max saw that COVID-19 was accelerating a trend towards convenient, healthy home-cook meals, creating an opportunity in the space. The duo has spent several years developing and testing healthy, plant-based recipes in Burgreens. They knew exactly what customers wanted and loved. Capitalizing on the opportunity was a matter of converting their best-selling menus into a frozen, ready-to-eat format. 

Voila, Green Rebel was born.

Green Rebel has continued to adapt their product offerings to ensure growth in interest from food service customers and retail. From our interview with Helga, we identified three key factors that make their products work in APAC.

#1 - Products Adapted for the Asian Palate 

Time and again, consumer research identifies that product localization is key when developing plant-based products for the Asian market.

Green Rebel’s products have been designed to check this box from the get-go. Its portfolio includes local items such as rendang and satay, as well as regionally popular dishes like chicken katsu and karaage. 

We are proudly Asian and that’s our starting point. As we expand It’s our aim to localize flavors as much as possible in new markets we launch in. We are also mindful that some products such as Rendang and Satay have flavors that resonate with consumers from different parts of the world.

#2 - Products That Are Convenient and Healthy

As the APAC economy grows rapidly, its consumers are leading increasingly hectic lives. Plant-based products that offer consumers convenience are a must in this part of the world. 

From this perspective, Green Rebel’s ready-meal products are attractive to the growing middle class in Indonesia and broader APAC.

Ultimately, we want Green Rebel to appeal to people with busy schedules. Our range of delicious Southeast Asian flavored products like Beefless Rendang and Chick’n Satay can be heated up in under 10 minutes.

Helga explains that the convenience of their offerings doesn’t come at the cost of health, however.

Our products have been designed for clean labeling from the very beginning. All Green Rebel

products have a strong nutrition profile. They’re high in clean protein and are up to 59% lower in saturated fat, up to 30% lower in calories, and high in fiber. We use natural ingredients with no GMO or added preservatives or MSG.

Following the ethos of its Burgreens restaurants and focusing on healthy, nutritious products means Green Rebel can meet the needs of a growing base of health-conscious consumers in APAC.

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#3 - Products That Ensure Meaty Credentials

Consumers in APAC are less sensitive to sustainability concerns than in other markets. Your average consumer won’t, for example, stomach bland, dry plant-based chicken chunks while thinking wistfully of a greener world. 

From day one, Green Rebel has appreciated that consumers in Indonesia and APAC overall have high expectations for products that brand themselves as “meat”. To avoid disappointing customers, they developed custom technology to ensure their products taste, feel, and cook like meat.

Part of the meat-eating experience is the mouthfeel of meat, and our proprietary Rebel Texturization technology achieves this. It’s a combination of customized processes and unique preparation sequences that enables us to create whole-cut meat with a fibrous texture like the real thing — both in our Beefless and Chick’n alternatives.

To further enhance the eating experience, we have also created a Rebel Emulsion, a proprietary formulation of coconut oil, water and natural vegan seasoning that acts as an animal fat replacement, to achieve the distinctive taste, aroma, and juiciness one associates with animal protein.

The result is versatile products. Helga explains Green Rebel’s whole-cut products behave like meat. This lowers the barrier to entry as consumers across APAC can prepare and cook them in traditional Asian ways, such as in hotpots or stir-fries.   

Though Green Rebel had a repertoire of tried and tested dishes from Burgreens under its belt when it first started, it still took its time to formulate commercial products. In the long run, this has helped them win fans in food service and retail according to Helga.  

Green Rebel’s Strategic Marketing

A food product that speaks to what consumers in APAC care about? Check. But that’s only a piece of the puzzle that is building a strong plant-based brand in this region. 

Green Rebel has also employed strategic marketing activities that speak to consumers who are sympathetic to its brand values while educating the rest.

Green Rebel partners with several relevant brand ambassadors that lead communities of flexitarian and vegan consumers.

In Indonesia, we work with Andien Aisyah (@andienaisyah), a flexitarian mother of two and a popular singer who is known to live a mindful lifestyle, and Marc Klok (@marcklok), a vegan athlete who is respected on and off the field. 

Globally, we work with Kane Lim (@kanelk_k) as our brand ambassador. The star of the hit reality show Bling Empire is not only an investor in Green Rebel, but is also a staunch Buddhist and vegan who has featured Green Rebel in Bling Empire 3.

Outside of vegan and flexitarian consumers, awareness about the plant-based movement is low in APAC. To encourage consumers to try its products, Green Rebel invests in educational content.

One of our key content strategies on our socials is education, which is not only fundamental to helping consumers understand the health and environmental benefits of plant-based diets, but also understand that plant-centric flexitarianism is a viable lifestyle choice.

Green Rebel’s Future Growth

Green Rebel has been successful so far in finding product-market fit in the challenging APAC market. They’re not about to get complacent either.   

For its next stage of growth Green Rebel is scaling up its production capacity and looking for partners to co-develop plant-based products for new markets.

We’re currently building the largest plant-based meat and dairy manufacturing facility in Indonesia with international certifications such as HACCP, ISO 22000, and FSCC. This is due to be completed by the end of 2023. We’re looking to partner with FMCG companies and food service groups to co-produce or develop different types of plant-based protein products.

In the meantime, Helga says the company is aiming high in 2023. They seek to quadruple growth in 2023 while expanding into four new markets.

We’ll be in Thailand by end 2023, and will roll out in South Korea, Vietnam, and the Philippines by the first half 2023. 

The company is also testing a new lineup of dairy alternatives - plant-based cheddar, mozzarella, and mayonnaise - in current markets. With nine out of 10 Indonesians being lactose intolerant, and many more across APAC, these products seek to tap into growing concerns about dairy intolerance in the region.

What Can You Learn From Green Rebel’s Story?

Green Rebel is built on strong foundations. Helga and Max took what they’d learned from creating a chain of plant-based restaurants, Burgreens, and transformed this into a brand of plant-based ready meals. They continue to make strategic decisions that have helped them to scale and grow their business beyond Indonesia and across APAC.

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While not every founder and company has the benefit of Helga and Max’s food service experience, there’s a lot to learn from Green Rebel’s story. Here are some of our takeaways:

1. Don’t Rush a Product to Market

Green Rebel started with a repertoire of dishes to commercialize. It could have used existing plant-based raw materials and rushed the products to market. But Green Rebel took their time to develop plant-based meats with great taste and texture, without sacrificing nutrition. Its solid offering has made it easier to convince B2B and B2C customers, as well as investors.

Many plant-based brands have been too quick to go to market and have paid the price, as the saturated market of North America has shown.

The case of Green Rebel shows that companies developing plant-based products will benefit in the long run by spending the time to develop products that really exceed customers' expectations for plant-based meat.

2. Having an Experienced Expert Can Make All the Difference

Max and Helga are themselves experts in the plant-based food service space. Their experience has undoubtedly been invaluable for Green Rebel’s journey. 

But most companies - even big food companies - enter into the plant-based space as a new frontier, with limited knowledge and experience. Even those who have succeeded in their home markets face similar uncertainty when expanding abroad. The result is a trial-by-fire. Companies and startups invest capital trying to fumble for product-market fit as they go.

This can be a costly approach. Having an expert on your team who can help you understand the plant-based category and the needs of consumers in different markets can make the journey to building a winning product much smoother.

Seeking to Grow Your Plant-Based Business?

It’s easy to get lost looking for a recipe for success in this challenging but urgent category. Discovering and meeting consumers' evolving needs, educating them, and at the same time, balancing business objectives? It’s overwhelming.

But it doesn’t have to be. GourmetPro’s pre-vetted experts have the know-how and experience of building successful plant-based businesses. They’ve done it all before, and they’re passionate about doing it again, with you.

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That’s all folks

We hope you enjoyed today’s post. A huge thank you to Helga and the entire Green Rebel team for supporting this interview.

We’ll see you next Tuesday. In the meantime, let us know your takeaways from today’s post in the comments section.

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