The company already has three other food application centres around the globe. The new facility will target food processors in the fast-growing Asian economies such as China and India as well as established markets like Japan and Australia.
“Asia represents an enormous part of the growth opportunity that Solae sees around the world. When people’s incomes increase, they upgrade their diet and that often means more proteins, whether its meat, dairy or others,” said Tony Andrew, Asia Pacific senior sales director.
Household incomes in China increased an average 13 per cent in the past six years, according to brokerage firm CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets.
The 3,000-square metre facility will focus on food, beverage, bakery, confectionery and meat products. It contains laboratories for product development, sensory analysis and quality testing, allowing Solae to work more efficiently with regional customers and access local tastes. It is expected to halve the turnaround time for project development work.
Solae has already worked with local processors to create new categories, said Paul Paulsen, director of product development and application discovery, technology and innovation. In the mid 1990s, the company helped Chinese meat processors to create a shelf-stable ham sausage, similar in appearance to a hotdog sausage, now widely available as a snack across China.
“Most have a significant amount of soy protein, as much as 50 per cent,” said Paulsen. Adding soy both reduces the product cost and allows it to undergo the heating process that makes it shelf-stable. These snack sausages are now increasingly common in other markets such as Vietnam and Indonesia, added Andrew.
“Both portability and price point are important. [Soy] offers a combination of economics and stability.”
Solae is hoping to develop other new categories in its Shanghai application centre, as well as looking at product improvement. It currently sees strong demand across the region in beverages and a growing interest from bar manufacturers, particularly in more developed markets such as Australia and Japan but also in new places, such as Korea.
The trend for nutritional bars is emerging there thanks to the product’s similarity to a traditional food item, kang jeong. “Nutritional bars are a natural extension of this product, a more convenient modern version,” said Andrew.
Nutritional products are also expected to make up a large part of Solae’s Asian business. Japan, Korea, Indonesia and Malaysia have established cholesterol-lowering and/or heart health claims for soy protein. There is also strong demand for infant nutrition, often in the form of dry or liquid beverages.
Solae uses Chinese soya to manufacture soy protein isolates and other products at three factories in the country.