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Energy

Thai petrochemical giant diversifies into plant-based protein

PTT taps growing 'food for future' market with NR Instant Produce tie up

PTT is joining the global carbon-neutral push by investing in life science businesses.   © Reuters

BANGKOK -- Thai oil and gas conglomerate PTT Group has started a plant-based protein business in a bid to diversify while aligning itself with global carbon-neutral goals.

The company recently partnered with compatriot NR Instant Produce, a leading food manufacturer, to make alternative protein for what it calls "food for the future," including soy meat.

PTT hopes to become less dependent on its fossil fuel business.

CEO and President Auttapol Rerkpiboon said the company has poured 300 million baht ($9.6 million) into a subsidiary of NR Instant, with commercial operations due to start by 2022. PTT will provide investment and an operation network, while NR Instant will use its expertise in developing alternative protein products for the growing plant-based food market, analysts say.

The relatively small investment is part of PTT's strategy to diversify risks by pursuing value-added life science businesses. PTT plans to cover the entire supply chain of the alternative protein business, from development and manufacture to distribution.

The manufacturing plant will be located in Thailand with a capacity of 3,000 tons per year, the most in the country. "Production will be distributed throughout the entire [Southeast Asian] market," Auttapol said.

Thailand's domestic plant-based food market is worth around 28 billion baht ($899 million) annually and is forecast to grow by 10% per annum to 45 billion baht, according to Krungthai Compass, the research arm of Krungthai Bank. In addition, new diseases found in cattle and poultry have triggered global health concerns, pointing to opportunities in plant-based proteins.

The world plant-based food industry is worth $35 billion and could rise to $68 billion in 2025.

Apart from investing in alternative food products, PTT has also diversified into other life science businesses.

It now produces rubber gloves, aiming to capture a share of the growing medical supply market since the emergence of COVID-19. In April, it invested 24 billion baht ($770 million) to manufacture medical gloves.

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