Before their paths converged, Timo Recker and Andre Menezes shared a vision of creating a more sustainable world through food. A chance encounter via a venture incubation sprint with EDB New Ventures (corporate venturing arm of EDB) and Temasek (Singapore investment company) served as the perfect launchpad to turn their dreams into reality.
Today, the pair are proud founders of food-tech startup Next Gen Foods, where Timo serves as its Chief Executive Officer and Andre as Chief Operating Officer. Shortly after establishing its headquarters and R&D centre in Singapore in 2020, the company raised $13.2 million in its seed round and launched its plant-based chicken brand – TiNDLE– across 11 restaurant brands in the country.
For the founders, Singapore is only the first stop in their journey across Asia and beyond.
- Generational shifts, rapid urbanisation, growing affluence are driving the growth of Asia’s plant-based meat market
- To tap into these opportunities and achieve their vision of a more sustainable world, food industry veterans Timo Recker and Andre Menezes started Next Gen Foods
- Singapore’s abundance of investors and partners helped them secure $13.2 million in seed funding, and find the right partners to start their entrepreneurial journey
Timo and Andre are both veterans of the food industry. Timo founded and served as CEO of the plant-based meat brand Like Meat in Germany. Meanwhile, Andre most recently served as the General Manager of Country Foods in Singapore.
Asia’s booming plant-based meat market
Asia was a natural first market for Next Gen Foods. Andre and Timo’s experience in the food industry showed them the growth potential of the region.
“Asia may currently be behind US and Europe in terms of adoption of plant-based meats, but with generational shifts, and strong appetite for protein, it’s already starting to change,” said Andre.
For the duo, launching with a chicken-focused product was a natural choice. The universal and inclusive nature of chicken caters to the palate of diverse Asia. “You may have some plant-based pork and beef players, but chicken is something which hasn’t seen a dominant player despite it being commonplace in the everyday diet,” added Timo. “By recreating the consumer’s food experience – from bite to flavour and to smell – we can bring something new to the market.”
Choosing the right headquarters at the heart of Asia
Next Gen Foods considered other locations for its first headquarters in Asia, but ultimately chose Singapore. The founders explained that the marriage of factors – including safety, transparency, ease of doing business, digital and physical connectivity and concentration of regional headquarters – makes the republic a perfect place to scale.
“We do believe that Singapore will be the Silicon Valley for food-tech. While it’s still developing, many parts of the ecosystem are already in place. There are many multinational companies we can work with for R&D and we have the ability to test our products with different consumer groups, chefs and restaurants,” added Andre.
Beyond Singapore’s economic fundamentals, the founders were also impressed by the funding and support for startups. Said Timo, “The funding space here is very much a global one, with many different investors for all stages. Even at the idea stage, you can find lots of accelerators and the amount which we raised in the seed round shows a very advanced environment.”
Next Gen Food’s journey in starting up
Despite it being their first business in Singapore, Timo and Andre described their journey to be a smooth one thanks to the wealth of strategic partners and investors in the ecosystem.
Through K3 Ventures, Next Gen Foods worked with chefs from the Shangri-La Group to test its plant-based chicken in different cuisines ahead of its launch. Andre shared, “Partners such as K3 Ventures have also been instrumental in guiding us through the process. They brought us knowledge about the local and regional landscape, along with the investment scene.”
Partners in the public sector have also been essential. “We could easily incorporate here and received hands-on support from the Singapore government, which is rather rare globally,” said Timo. He highlighted support from EDB in facilitating Next Gen Foods’ establishment and expansion in Singapore as one such example.
The way forward
With a well-oiled machinery in place, Next Gen Foods looks to expand geographically across Asia by tapping into partnerships here, while honing its R&D capabilities to create new brands and categories of products.
But for the founders, it all goes back to their dream.
“In the end, for Andre and me, our motivation is to leave the planet a better place for our children and the next generation,” said Timo.