BOI starts formulating PHL Plant-based Food Industry Roadmap

The Philippine Board of Investments (BOI), the country’s lead industry development and investments promotion arm, has commenced the development of the Philippine Plant-based Food Industry Roadmap starting with an industry appraisal study.

Commissioned through a consultant who is an expert in the field, a six-month Rapid Industry Appraisal (RIA) Study will be conducted to better understand the industry’s status, performance, and prospects, serving as a solid foundation in the formulation of the roadmap.

BOI in partnership with the University of the Philippines through the College of Home Economics-Department of Food Science and Nutrition conducted the Frontiers of the Plant-Based Food Industry: The World and the Philippines webinar which presented an overview of the local and global plant-based food industry and the opportunities for its further development.

“This is very timely as the Covid-19 pandemic has created a new culture of healthy eating that includes patronizing plant-based products,” said Dr. Shirley Guevarra, the Dean of the UP College of Home Economics emphasizing the various opportunities for plant-based foods in the Philippines in her welcome message.

BOI Director for Resource-Based Industries Raquel Echague during her opening remarks meanwhile highlighted that the BOI fully supports the administration’s direction to strengthen food value chains to achieve food security and shares the same aspirations with UP, the food industry stakeholders, the government agencies, and the entire nation towards developing the Philippine Plant-based Food Industry.

Dr. Maria Patricia Azanza, Professor Emeritus from UP Diliman, a food innovation expert and the head organizer of the webinar pointed out that the Philippines at present is actively participating in the complex plant-based food supply chain locally and globally, which indicates the future opportunities that need to be captured and capitalized. “Our present discussions are essential in the transformation of the plant-based food industry to become a legitimate working food system with sustainability and significant support from the various stakeholders” she emphasized in her keynote message.

The webinar featured 10 local and international speakers who discussed and presented an overview of the plant-based food industry from different aspects and perspectives.

The first part of the webinar featured some of the key players in the local plant-based food industry and the brands and products that they offer, namely: Century Pacific Food, Inc. and their brand unMeat; Universal Robina Corporation and their product Vitasoy; Monde Nissin Corporation and their brand Quorn; and Worth the Health Food and their brand Umani.

The second session featured a presentation from a world-renowned protein technology expert and an interdisciplinary writer, Mr. Henk Hoogenkamp, Sr. about plant protein transformation. He underscored that the better pathway to make people appreciate plant-based food is through hybrid transition or by offering products made up of combinations of meat and non-meat raw materials. “If the consumers slowly transition from one system to another, it is much more likely to succeed,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Henk Hoogenkamp, Jr., an expert in food proteins and the co-founder of Moolec Science, discussed molecular farming which is being considered the fourth pillar of alternative protein along with plant-based, fermentation, and cultured meat. Molecular farming aims to upgrade the taste, nutrition, and affordability of food products by taking the specific gene of an animal and putting it into the seed to grow the crop and use it directly for food consumption.

Deputy Director of the Department of Science and Technology Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD) Engr. Ninaliza Escorial presented the various programs, scientific research, and food innovations of the agency that set the direction for the research and technology development of the Philippine plant-based food industry.

Dr. Luz Felicidad Callanta, a UP Diliman Professor and a Nutritionist for the Humane Society International talked about the prospects and acceptance of plant-based meals in the Philippines where she emphasized that plant-based diet is here to stay and the Filipinos are ready to take on the challenge.

According to the presentation of Dr. Vittorio Fattori, the Food Safety Officer of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN-FAO), the implications for food safety of plant-based alternatives would depend on the inputs, production, and processing techniques applied in manufacturing the product. There is a need to establish a regulatory framework for this emerging sector to stimulate its growth, at the same time, to ensure product safety.

Further, Dr. Bin Liu, a Nutrition and Food Systems Officer of UN-FAO provided a presentation on the recognition of plant-based food systems as sustainable support of food security and nutrition. He highlighted that there is no single solution to the challenges of food security and nutrition but, the implementation of sustainable production methods could be one of the answers.

More than 400 online participants representing the academe, R&D institutions, relevant government agencies, industry associations, MSMEs, retailers, and consumers attended the webinar and had the chance to ask questions to the line-up of speakers.

Closing the webinar, the BOI Head for Agri-Based Industries Division, Mr. Francis Peñaflor emphasized the commitment of the BOI to support the development of the plant-based food industry and discussed available fiscal incentives under the CREATE Act for prospective investors. On the other hand, the Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs for Resource Management of the UP System, Dr. Mary Delia Tomacruz expressed her deepest gratitude to all those who made the event a reality and looks forward to working with the stakeholders in assessing the plant-based food industry in the Philippines.