Challenge Update: ADM x NTUitive Plant-based Perfection Challenge 2021
The top 16 teams for the ADM (Archer-Daniels-Midland Company) x NTUitive Plant-based Perfection Challenge 2021 have been selected based on their initial ideas for an innovative plant-based meat alternative, and they are now gearing up for the semi-finals. Part of their prep includes five guest workshops that were held at Theatre @ NTU Innovation Centre, as well as one-to-one pitch coaching workshops. Here is the run-down of events the teams went through these past two weeks:
Workshop 1: Protein and its Functionality in Plant-based Food & Beverages
Conducted by Dr Tony Payne (Protein Technical Director, APAC at ADM), the workshop introduced the teams to the fundamentals of protein and its important role in the food tech industry. The teams were also shown how ADM’s portfolio of protein products, such as pea protein and soy protein, could be incorporated for different purposes.
“These workshops were useful in helping us develop our initial proposal,” says Valerie from Team Aubergae. “We see how we can improve our recipes, incorporating ADM’s ingredients to develop them further.”
Workshop 2: Plant-based Meat Alternative Systems
The second workshop held by Dr Payne focused on the systems for putting products together. Teams were taught how to manipulate their formula according to components such as texture, flavour, binding, and preservation, as well as the steps to be taken in combining ingredients effectively.
Johanan from Team Planteo recounts, “Although I studied food science, this was nothing like what I learnt in class. It’s interesting to see food tech from the perspective of industry experts, because they apply the science in different ways to work towards product goals.”
Workshop 3: Creating a Plant-based Meat Analog: How is it Made?
Conducted by Ms Nica Delmo (ADM’s Savoury Application Specialist), the workshop gave the teams a more in-depth look at how to go from individual ingredients to a fully formed plant-based meat product. The teams were taught about the various processes involved in making sure the product meets customers’ expectations of appearance, texture, taste, and smell.
“It was insightful to see the internal processes that go on in the labs,” comments Johanan of Team Planteo. “As plant-based meat is getting a lot of attention lately, especially in Singapore, it was a privilege to get such insider perspectives that companies would typically keep confidential.”
Workshop 4: The Secrets Behind Flavours & Maskers
The workshop held by Ms Kelly Awyong, Senior Flavourist at ADM, taught the teams about improving the taste of plant-based products through masking. The workshop covered a range of topics – from the scientific make-up of flavour, to cost concerns as well as ways of innovating and further developing existing flavours.
“This was probably the most interesting workshop,” notes Chantelle from Team Aubergae. “The workshops can be quite technical and theoretical, so you know it might end up different when you apply it. But for the topic of flavours, you get it straight away.”
Johanan from Planteo adds, “I liked that the speakers had a lot of experience that they shared with us. For such a niche industry like this, it really helps to get tips from people who specialise in it.”
Workshop 5: Bringing Plant-based Innovations to Market Successfully
The final workshop of the week was conducted by Ms Sarah Lim (ADM’s Marketing Director, Human Nutrition, South East Asia) and Mr Eelke Kroes (Partner and Senior Innovation & Venture Strategist at Innoboost). The two shared their experiences such as leading the company in the Netherlands and launching ADM’s products in various markets around Europe and the United States.
Valerie from Aubergae mentions how the final workshop gave the teams a more holistic learning experience: “While the other workshops focused more on the technical aspects of creating the product, this one takes us to the next step, which was about commercialising the product.”
“This workshop was important because there are still debates going on about plant-based food in Asia,” voices Johanan. “There are still people who oppose it, or people who are on the fence, so being able to market your item to the masses is a huge challenge to overcome.”
Pitch Coaching Workshop
Besides the guest workshops, the teams each went through a one-to-one pitch coaching session with Ms Chua Ruo Mei (Chief Impact Officer, Smiling Up the World (SUTW) Impact Consulting) at NTUitive @ Blk 79, Ayer Rajah Crescent – NTUitive’s dedicated incubation support space within the vibrant startup environment in the LaunchPad @ one-north vicinity. As part of their preparation for the semi-finals, the teams refined and practised the pitches they would present to investors at the upcoming semi-finals.
“Pitching is something I’ve never done before,” admits Johanan. “We learnt some great tips on how to finalise and sell our idea as a 90-second elevator pitch. Because we had a lot of ideas, most of which were complex and technical, it was important to condense it in a way that was concise and easy to understand.”
“Ruo Mei was great,” says Valerie. “We ran overtime but she stayed on and helped us as much as we needed. We were made to practise our pitch on the spot, after which we would get valuable feedback on how to improve.”
Gearing Up for the Semi-finals: NTUit.io Virtual Investment Game
Now that all the workshops are over, the competing teams are abuzz with excitement for the semi-finals, where they will be pitching their ideas to investors – consisting of veterans from the F&B industry and real investors – in the NTUit.io virtual investment game.
NTUit.io is a virtual investment game designed by NTUitive, where aspiring entrepreneurs get realistic experience in pitching to investors from venture capitalists and receive ‘investments’ with virtual money. The system is also a realistic simulation for the investor to test their investment thesis and strategy.
Aspiring entrepreneurs get to pitch to potential investors over a period of three hours. The intense pitching is a learning experience for the teams as startups need to pitch fast, learn fast, and figure out how to increase the hit rate while maintaining the pitch cadence. Each investor will be given a million dollars of virtual money to invest. The entrepreneur who has the highest valuation wins, and the investor who achieves the highest portfolio growth wins. Aspiring entrepreneurs and investors will get to network through the game and potentially go on to form collaborations after the event.
The teams learn that pitching to investors is not just about selling the product; it is also about how their businesses are able to further raise money and generate higher valuation. In addition, pitching to different types of investors requires different strategies. The investors can assess if the entrepreneurs are coachable and able to leverage the investors to provide desirable returns.
The Game is On
For the ADM x NTUitive Plant-based Perfection Challenge 2021, only five out of the 16 teams will get to experience a month of lab and culinary creation with ADM before proceeding to the final culinary demonstration and get that much closer to winning the prizes and opportunities with ADM – so the game is on.
Visit www.plant-based-perfection.com for more info about the Challenge.