The first Facility Producing Plant-Based Meat has opened in Abu Dhabi.

  • April 27, 2023
The first Facility Producing Plant-Based Meat has opened in Abu Dhabi.

The products of a newly opened plant-based meat processing facility in Abu Dhabi will start showing up in UAE supermarkets in May.

The recently constructed Switch Foods facility has 2,000 square meters and can make 1,000 kg of plant-based meat per hour, or 8,000 kg per day, in the Khalifa Industrial Zone in the capital.

The factory contains a high-tech manufacturing floor, a research lab, an innovation lab, and storage spaces for both raw materials and finished goods.

Kebab, soujuk, kofta, hamburger patties, and minced beef are among the items that will be sold in stores all around the nation starting in the next month. They are all made entirely of plants, mostly from peas.

As individuals become more health concerned, meat substitutes are regaining popularity at the same time as the inauguration.

While several foreign companies, like the well-known Beyond Meat, already have a presence in the UAE, Switch Foods takes pleasure in being locally produced.

The company's CEO, Edward Hamod, claims that having a local manufacturing line would allay worries about the items' sometimes high price tags. He said that their items will be "by far the cheapest" without providing a price.

Aside from price, issues regarding texture and flavor have made it difficult for synthetic meat to entirely take over the popular dining scene. It has been characterized by some as tasting earthy and leaving a dry mouthfeel.

Hamod claims that throughout the development stage, Switch Foods first used chefs from North America but later hired regional chefs to capture the unique flavor.

He continues, "We worked on different projects with different chefs and restaurants," noting that they would soon begin new partnerships. The business also intends to provide similar establishments with meat products in addition to its retail activities.

Dubai saw the debut of its first facility producing plant-based meat earlier this year. In March, the food manufacturer Iffco established Thryve in Dubai Industrial City.

Growing flexitarians

Even well-known eateries like Neat Burger and manufacturers of plant-based meat take a measured approach to advertising their goods. They do not anticipate being able to completely convert meat eaters, but they do strongly support flexitarianism and a semi-vegetarian way of life.

"We want those who consume meat to eat a little less meat. We want them to move one or two meals a month to a plant-based diet, according to Hamod. Flexitarians, he continues, represent an even larger market for them than vegans.

"We are in the region with the highest global meat consumption. According to him, the average amount of meat consumed in the country is 55 kg per person, compared to the 22 kg suggested by the Food and Agriculture Organization.

According to Hamod, even a little shift in meat consumption patterns might have a significant impact. It also helps that there is already a "global movement" in this direction.

According to a YouGov research from 2021, flexitarians make up 13% of the population in the UK and 12% in the US. Increased health and environmental consciousness, as well as ongoing product innovation in the plant-based meat sector, are expected to help these numbers rise.

In this area, according to Hamod, the market for plant-based meat is "suffering because it is dependent on imports that do not meet the requirements of its taste."

He said that Switch Foods spent 12 to 16 months perfecting its present product range and making it as delectable as possible for the UAE taste. It soon intends to include additional items.

According to Hamod, restaurants have shown interest in working with Switch Foods to create meals that use their meat substitutes.

Because we are local, we have the opportunity to collaborate with chefs and create unique goods for them, he added. He makes the point that local manufacturing capability avoids supply chain snags, enabling eateries to completely commit to include meat substitutes on their menus.

"We produce a ton per hour, which is more than any restaurant can handle, and we are half an hour away from everyone in the UAE," he claims.