New Report Reveals the Untapped Potential of Mung Beans for Alternative Proteins
This morning, the Good Food Institute APAC—Asia’s leading alternative protein think tank—released an important new report that outlines how to unlock the potential of what it describes as “one of Asia’s most underutilised crops.”
Informed by months of deep research and interviews with top scientists, engineers, and corporate leaders, the report spotlights a number of key conclusions:
- Mung beans—which are already widely cultivated across China, India, Thailand, Myanmar, and Indonesia—offer several built-in advantages over more commonly used plant-based ingredients. They have far lower allergenicity than either soy or wheat. Mung beans are also celebrated in both traditional Chinese medicine and the Indian medicine system of Ayurveda, making them a familiar and broadly appealing ingredient in many Asian cultures. Additionally, processing innovations for mung beans—which possess the properties to achieve the desired taste and texture profile needed for many plant-based applications using less-intensive processing methods—could help products more easily earn the “clean label” status that many consumers say they want.
- Despite these clear advantages, mung beans and other regionally produced crops remain notably absent from most plant-based protein ingredient lists. In 2022, 77 percent of plant-based meat products launched in Southeast Asia used soy or wheat as their protein source—ingredients primarily grown in the West.
- Part of the reason is that compared to western ingredients, Asian crops like mung beans have been woefully neglected by protein-focused research and development programmes. Soy-producing countries have spent decades optimising that crop and driving down costs through innovative breeding programmes. As a result, producers have more than doubled how much value they get from every single acre of land. Similarly, cereal crops like wheat have nearly tripled their yield sizes over the past 50 years. Meanwhile, legumes—which include mung beans—have increased by a comparatively meager 60 percent. It’s a classic case of underinvestment leading to underutilisation.
- Currently, Asia’s plant-based protein production is overly reliant on western imports, introducing unnecessary instability into the supply chain and preventing local food producers from being able to cash in on what should be a clear windfall. Only by rapidly making up lost ground in high-tech crop and food science research hubs like Singapore and Bangkok will local crops be able to compete with western ingredients on cost, protein content, functionality, and yield, thereby unleashing their full potential as plant-based powerhouse ingredients.
The full report is now available for free download here.