NZ Food innovators Little Island showcase in Asia
In early August, Singapore supermarket chain Cold Storage will hold its annual Flavours Of The World food show. The largest of its kind, the two week fair showcases the best and brightest brands from around the world. This year, alongside regular New Zealand products such as kiwifruit, wine and dairy, is a brand aiming beyond current consumer habits and instead looking to the next evolution in food.
Little Island Coconut Creamery and its co-founder James Crow are returning to Singapore off the back of a successful launch in May where the plant-based dairy-alternative brand introduced locals to its range of coconut ice cream and coconut milk beverages, including a dairy milk alternative. Since the May show, follow up orders have seen growth of 50% and Crow is returning in August to launch a new banana flavour of its coconut milk range.
“We met more than 20,000 Singapore nationals during the May show and saw a growing trend and knowledge of dairy-free and the use of non-dairy products more often during their week, with the appeal not just based on taste,” says Crow.
With 50% of Singaporean adults now having borderline high cholesterol, plant-based alternatives such as coconut milk beverages, which contain no cholesterol, are becoming more relevant and more widely available in mainstream grocery chains.
“There is a certain pride for locals in seeing coconut used in this way. Being a staple for many regions and combined with the trusted quality of New Zealand manufacturing, this creates a fantastic product story,” says Crow.
Another target market for Little Island at present is Hong Kong where the social enterprise group Green Mondays has been working to develop a message of meat-free Mondays and plant based alternatives and is currently in talks with the coconut brand to distribute its products in the region.
“Asia is not only embracing plant based milks but also plant based protein as many parts of the world look for better option to feed a growing world population with a reduced environmental foot print,” says Crow.
The past five years has seen a revolution in plant-based milks, where dairy is the comparison and taste must stack up. Leading this charge has been almond milk, which in the US has seen 250% growth in the past five years, with the dairy alternative milk category grossing $1 billion in sales. Almond milk alone brought in more than $894 million in sales in 2015. The second largest and fastest growing plant-based milk is coconut.
So with the growing interest in dairy alternatives from Asia, and our local industry designed to deliver dairy to the masses, is there room for New Zealand to participate in the dairy alternative space? Crow believes so.
“As Kiwis we have an ingrained knowledge of how a product must perform if it’s going to replace dairy in people’s lives. We have the trusted processes but without a local supply of either soy or almond, coconut from the Pacific and beyond is a perfect fit,” says Crow.
Little Island has been working with Samoan growers and business to secure a sustainable supply of industry standard coconut cream that is also certified organic.
Little Island will be attending the Flavours Of The World food show, running between July 31 and August 13 at Plaza Singapura in Singapore.