Plant-based satay that tastes like the real thing among possible healthier food products from new $110 million lab

(From left) Professor Chua Nam-Hai, Mr Kuok Khoon Hong, Minister Heng Swee Keat, Mr Hsieh Fu Hua and Professor Tan Eng Chye during the launch of the new WIL@NUSCorporate Laboratory.
(From left) Professor Chua Nam-Hai, Mr Kuok Khoon Hong, Minister Heng Swee Keat, Mr Hsieh Fu Hua and Professor Tan Eng Chye during the launch of the new WIL@NUSCorporate Laboratory.ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

SINGAPORE - It will smell, look and even taste like a regular satay, but it will not be chicken or beef on a stick.

Instead, it will be a 100 per cent, plant protein-based dish.

The vegetarian satay is one of the products that could emerge from the new WIL@NUS Corporate Laboratory, which aims to drive innovation in food tech and sustainable biochemicals.

The S$110 million research facility, which is jointly set up by Wilmar International Limited, National University of Singapore (NUS) and the National Research Foundation, was launched on Tuesday afternoon (June 19) by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat at the school's University hall.

Wilmar is the world's largest manufacturer of oleo-chemicals, which are used in the production of everyday consumer products like industrial cleaners, lubricants and fragrance.

The 2,000 sq m joint research laboratory will comprise two key clusters.

The first will look to address major public health issues through the development of healthier foods - like the plant-based satay.


The other cluster of the lab will look at designing cost-effective and sustainable methods of producing chemical compounds using natural sources.

Scientists at the lab will look to produce biochemicals from natural sources in a more sustainable and cost-effective way with the use of microbes and enzymes.

Currently, plant-based feedstock is utilised for the production of high value oleo-chemicals.

Researchers at the WIL@NUS Corporate laboratory will also look at ways to formulate healthier cooking oils that could reduce cholesterol levels in the elderly and in turn lower the risk of chronic diseases.

In addition, they will develop food products such as ready-to-eat-meals and beverages that could help to manage diabetes and obesity.

Wilmar Chairman and CEO Kuok Khoon Hong said that his Singapore-based company was thrilled to be embarking on the collaboration with NUS.

He added that the food industry was experiencing a paradigm shift.

He said: "From the elderly to the millennial, people are demanding healthier and more nutritious food. To stay ahead of the curve, we embrace open innovation."

Mr Heng in his speech at the launch ceremony said: "This partnership between NUS and Wilmar is testimony to the increasing public-private R&D collaborations between universities and industry in our innovation ecosystem, which allow our universities to work closely with industry to develop commercially-applicable solutions for problems faced by the industry."

" I am looking forward to food products from the Corporate Lab that could enhance the health and well-being of our people, as well as greener and more sustainable production of biochemical compounds for our industry."

Correction note: An earlier version of this story spelt Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat's name incorrectly in the photo caption. We are sorry for the error.