Nestlé has opened a new manufacturing facility in Malaysia to produce plant-based protein products for Asian markets under its Harvest Gourmet brand.

The factory in Shah Alam, a city in Selangor state in western Malaysia, will serve retail and foodservice customers with animal-free burgers, mince and schnitzels, with anticipated annual volumes of 8,000 tons. The facility became fully operational in January but the project is only just being revealed to the market, a spokesperson confirmed.

Nestlé, the world’s largest food company, said it has already secured deals to provide Harvest Gourmet products to the Element Fresh restaurant chain in China, and eateries KyoChon in Malaysia and Carl’s Jr in Singapore. It will also supply online retailer Tmall and its offline retail counterpart Hema in China, both owned by the country’s Alibaba Group.

Chris Johnson, Nestlé’s CEO for Asia, Oceania and Africa, said: “We’re really going ‘beyond the bun’ to capture local tastes and convince people to try plant-based options. We believe that the more people embrace plant-based food, the better for them and the planet. That’s why we are at the forefront of this shift and investing for the future.”

Quoting figures from London-based data and analytics firm GlobalData, the parent company of just-food, the Maggi noodles owner said 40% of respondents to a survey conducted in Asia and Oceania said they were moving toward a plant-based diet, while 11% noted they are seeking purely vegetarian or vegan options.

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By GlobalData

Nestlé already has a plant-based facility in China, located in the northern city of Tianjin, along with R&D centres in Singapore, Beijing and Manesar in India, from where it is developing products for local tastes.

Tahira Shiraz-Longden, vice-president for food at Nestlé Professional in Asia, Oceania and Africa, added: "With over 40% of consumers in Asia choosing to eat less or no meat in their diet, the demand for plant-based foods is no longer a food trend, it is a social shift. Whether it is motivated by personal health or for a more sustainable planet, we are excited to bring our plant-based knowledge and expertise to this region and adapt to local tastes."

Nestlé launched its Harvest Gourmet brand in China in December amid a wave of investment in plant-based meat from domestic and international players in the market and in the region. Altug Guven, senior vice president of the group's Nestlé Professional division in Greater China, told just-food at the time he welcomed the competition and argued the world's largest food maker would be able stand out given its global R&D muscle. "We have around 300 people in eight R&D centres to bring new ideas to shelves as quickly as within a year," he told just-food.