How Is Vitasoy Driving The Plant-Based Sector In Asia?

The Chinese market for plant-based products has been growing rapidly in the last few years. Sales numbers for alternative meat products are booming, and soymilk and oat milk are more popular than ever. One of the companies driving the plant-based sector in Asia is Vitasoy. It was founded in 1940 in Hong Kong and offers plant-based milk options like almond, rice, oat and soy, teas, and different kinds of tofus.

The company’s revenue has skyrocketed to almost double in the last decade, and 80% of it is due to the demand in China. The rest is due to the company’s operations in Singapore, the Philippines, and Australia and exports to over 40 countries.

Talking about the growth, the Group CEO of Vitasoy, Roberto Guidetti, said, “From the original beginning in China’s southern area, we have been able to expand to Central and Eastern China, and then nationally via tailoring our portfolio and route-to-market model in the favorable context of progressive premiumization of the category.”

The company focuses on ensuring that the products are sourced in a sustainable, ecological, fair labor practice way. Explaining it, Guidetti said, “This is a key vector in our ESG activities and intended progress. We have implemented a suppliers’ classification, validation process, and sustainable farming practices guidelines that engage suppliers on expected requirements. These go beyond raw materials’ quality to include their own sustainability, fair labor practices, and governance. Beyond our own determination, these standards and processes are also very critical for some of our big customers, who audit these specifications for their own ESG guidelines.”

Expanding on how Vitasoy’s ESG works and how the company meets the ESG goals, Guidetti said, “The original founding purpose of the Vitasoy company in 1940 was to provide tasty, sustainable plant-based nutrition. Therefore, as the ESG momentum started to gradually build internationally, we determined that ESG for Vitasoy was core corporate purpose work, as opposed to just adequate compliance to Hong Kong Stock Exchange guidelines. After updating our materiality assessment, we started our own ESG framework with two core pillars: one is “Making the right products”; the other one is “Making products the right way’.”

He added, “Making the right products’ means that 1) we are making most of our portfolio plant-based (now 90 percent of our SKU are plant-based, comprising soy, oat, almond, rice milks, and teas), and 2) we are adding more nutrition whilst cutting fat and sugar into our formulae. Making products the right way” has focused on energy reduction — how many liters of water, how many kilowatts of electricity, how much fuel we are consuming per liter of manufactured product. We set an initial goal to reduce them by 20 percent for the next five years. This pillar has now been extended beyond such parameters to also include other social factors.”

Three Important Areas

Highlighting the three important areas to work on, Guidetti said, “Specifically, we realized there are three important areas to work on. First is instituting our best practices into specific published policies, with mechanisms to track their implementation.”

He added, “Second is climate readiness, which means going beyond contributing to sustainability via our plant-based portfolio, to run a climate risk assessment and specific quantification of emissions that in turn will enable us to set carbon neutrality goals in line with international requirements. We have already quantified our full scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions. We are aligning our practices with the guidelines set by the Task Force on Climate-related Financials Disclosures (TCFD) as much as possible. We look at not only the Hong Kong Stock Exchange’s requirements but also at more advanced countries like those in Europe to stay ahead of the curve in this area.”

He concluded, “Last, but not least is the packaging. Most of our products are sold in carton packaging. This is helpful in terms of the upstream supply chain as it is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified; however, there are some gaps to be addressed on the downstream as not every market has the full infrastructure for carton recycling and circularity. Therefore, in Hong Kong, we are piloting initiatives in this area involving collection and recycling. In Hong Kong, we are also piloting the conversion of plastic packaging (a smaller part of our portfolio) into recycled PET.”

Connecting with Modern Consumers

Vitasoy recently evolved its branding by reviving its plant-based heritage to resonate with modern consumers’ desire for a healthier and nutritious lifestyle with the campaign platform “Planting Goodness Every Day” by Dentsu international Hong Kong. It represented Vitasoy’s wide portfolio of products, including Classic, Calci-Plus, and VitaOat.

Future Outlook

The demand for plant-based products is rising and will continue to rise as there has been a considerable increase in the number of lactose intolerant population. In the future, the growing trend of consuming products with no or less artificial contents will be expected to fuel market sales for companies like Vitasoy.



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