The U.S. Dry Bean Council (USDBC) and the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council (USADPLC) have been making a concerted effort to position the U.S. as a premier supplier of pulses and ingredients among plant-based food processors and entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia. The plant-based food movement in Southeast Asia is now one of the largest in the world, with Singapore positioning itself as a research and development and investment hub for new plant-based foods and alternative proteins, and much of the production taking place in Thailand, the Philippines, and more recently, in Indonesia and Malaysia.
Many consumers in Southeast Asia are not familiar with pulses, especially the types of pulses from the United States, as these foods are not a staple in consumers’ diets and are not locally produced in significant quantities in most countries. Because of the lack of consumer awareness of U.S. pulses, the USDBC and USADPLC have been promoting U.S. pulses as an ingredient in value-added food products to mainstream food processors for many years, believing that there are excellent opportunities in this sector because of the nutritional properties of pulses. These promotional efforts are now coming to fruition as the plant-based food movement grows worldwide, and the USDBC and USADPLC are stepping up their efforts to capitalize on this trend.
In early 2021, ID Capital, the organizer of Future Food Asia (FFA), invited the U.S. Dry Bean Council and the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council’s Southeast Asia representative to sponsor Future Food Asia (FFA) 2021. FFA is the leading agricultural food technology conference in the Asia-Pacific region and is normally held in person in Singapore. In 2021, ID Capital held the conference online and invited both Councils to produce a promotional report on pulses and ingredients to be released in tandem with the conference. The USDBC and USADPLC sponsored the event using Foreign Market Development (FMD) funding as an opportunity for U.S. pulses to gain visibility among food innovators in Southeast Asia, including food processors and startups experimenting with alternative proteins.
The Conference took place June 7 – 11, 2021. More than 600 attendees, representing 36 companies, participated. About 40% of the attendees were industry professionals, while 16% represented food technology startups. Joel Woodward, the regional representative for the USDBC/USADPLC, and Alexandra Londoño, from the Buhler Group, a leading pulse processing equipment manufacturer, were featured in a panel discussion, “Feeling the Pulse of Asia – A Deep Dive into the Future of Pulses.” This session was later revealed to be the most-watched session of the conference.
After the program, the USDBC/USADPLC representative reached out to selected attendees by telephone and email to encourage them to experiment with U.S. pulses. A significant trade lead emerged from Unilever Thailand which was looking at “certain specific Future 50 Ingredients” and requested samples of U.S. white kidney beans. The USDBC representative provided an introduction to an importer in Thailand of white kidney beans and arranged for the delivery of samples for new product development and testing. Progress on this project continues to be monitored and significant results will be reported in a future success story.
The success of the participation in FFA has emphasized the importance of the new plant-based food movement in Southeast Asia and events, such as FFA, designed to reach out to new and existing food innovators. A priority will be placed by the USDBC on participating in future activities of this nature to raise the visibility of U.S. pulses and generate new contacts and sales among the key buyers of the future.