Next Gen Food Tech Co-Founder Andre Menezes Shares His Personal Start-up Journey in Singapore

Recognising the untapped potential of the regional plant-based food tech industry, Brazilian-Italian Andre Menezes co-founded plant-based meat company Next Gen together with Timo Recker, founder and former CEO of LikeMeat. We speak to Andre to learn more about his personal entrepreneurship journey, how he met Timo and his views on the growth potential of the regional food tech industry.

By SGN | 26 Sep 2022

Andre Menezes is the co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of food tech company Next Gen. Headquartered in Singapore and backed by investors including Temasek, K3 ventures, EDB New Ventures, NX Food, FEBE and Blue Horizon, Next Gen raised US$10 Million in its latest seed round – the largest ever for a plant-based food tech company

From Brazil to Singapore: How a serendipitous encounter changed everything

Born in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Andre moved to Singapore in 2016 to take up the role of Supply Chain Consultant for SATS BRF Food Pte Ltd (SBRF), now known as Country Foods. Over the next four years, Andre steadily moved up the ranks to become General Manager, leading an operational turnaround and preparing the company for the future with initiatives such as the distribution of Impossible Foods.

“I was absolutely mind blown after tasting Impossible Foods for the first time; I just knew there was something big there.” At Country Foods, Andre and his team worked on expanding distribution of Impossible Foods and making the brand a household name in Singapore.

It was when he was studying the best plant-based products available for distribution in Singapore that he met Timo Recker, the founder and former CEO of German plant-based meat company, LikeMeat. LikeMeat was acquired by The LIVEKINDLY Collective in 2020.

Andre met Timo (pictured right) while researching the best plant-based meat products to bring to Singapore – the two hit it off, and co-founded Next Gen together in 2020. Andre cites Singapore’s supportive start-up ecosystem, potential as a launchpad for global expansion and strong infrastructure as reasons for Next Gen’s decision to set up here

“It was serendipity when we met – we were both making huge, unprecedented transitions in our lives, we were both in Singapore and ready for a new start at the same time,” Andre shares.

“Timo wanted to set up a new venture for plant-based foods in Singapore. The idea was to introduce innovative and sustainable plant-based products that deliver tantalising taste experiences. My vision was similar to Timo’s. There could not have been a better opportunity for me than to partner Timo and set up Next Gen.”

Next Gen was launched in Singapore on 1 October 2020, with founder capitalisation of US$2.2 million (SGD $3 million). In February 2021, the duo announced that Next Gen had closed a US$10 Million Seed round, the largest ever for a plant-based food tech company, according to Pitchbook.

The funding will be used for the global launch of its plant-based chicken brand, TiNDLE, expansion into additional Asian cities, as well as to support continued R&D of new plant-based products.

As of 2022, Next Gen has expanded into nine countries, raised US$130m in funding and established TiNDLE presence in over 1,000 restaurants across the globe. The company has also established its US headquarters in Chicago and opened a new R&D centre in the city, in partnership with The Hatchery Chicago. The facility will explore and develop new plant-based products in conjunction with Next Gen’s existing R&D centres in Singapore and the Netherlands.

Andre shares that they were inspired to create TiNDLE consistent with Next Gen’s mission to deliver great taste to consumers so they no longer feel the need to consume animal-based food.

TiNDLE, created in partnership with chefs, is free of genetically modified organisms and cholesterol and reproduces the taste and versatility of chicken thigh

The plant-based product was launched in March 2021 at select restaurants, including burger joint Three Buns, and Indian restaurant Adda, by Chef Mural Manjunath, who was awarded 4x Michelin star at his previous restaurant.

Setting up Next Gen in Singapore: On Singapore as a regional food tech hub

Choosing to set up Next Gen’s headquarters in Singapore, Andre shares, positions the company to be ready for a market that is poised to grow very quickly. According to UBS, the global plant-based protein segment is expected to reach US$85 billion by 2030. Global investment in food technology for the first three quarters of 2020 already hit US$8.37 billion, beating the US$7 billion raised in 2019.

On the regional Food Tech industry specifically, Andre expresses optimism about growth potential as well.

“Locally, the food tech industry is still nascent; however, Singapore is ahead regionally. The sector shows so much promise – it’s an absolute need for humanity. Likewise, the way our collective thinking has pivoted to contribute to long-term sustainability makes the industry more relevant than ever today.”

“Singapore is booming as a food tech hub, offering strong infrastructure that supports food tech innovations. Being here also positions us to build a global business that can expand into other Asian markets, Europe and the United States.”

The local start-up scene is exciting and probably one of the best places for start-ups to think and act globally, Andre adds. He believes the supportive environment encourages forward-thinking and innovation, making Singapore a place where a hodgepodge of ideas are brewing and waiting to take the world by storm.

Living and working in Singapore | Parting words to budding entrepreneurs

Prior to moving to Singapore in 2016, Andre had spent 27 years living and working in his home country of Brazil. Aside from a brief internship stint in Germany, he had not experienced working in another country – yet he had no trouble acclimatising to Singapore. He was caught off-guard by how smoothly he settled into Singapore together with his wife.

“Personally, there is no other place I would rather be. Singapore is home to me, and I’ve decided to become a Permanent Resident. The country is safe, trustworthy, stable, innovative and connected – and most importantly, a food heaven!”

With this, Andre ends off the interview by sharing some parting words for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to set up businesses of their own.

“A business can’t thrive based only on isolated factors; be it a product, technology, brand, good sales ability or individual capacity. For a business to succeed, it needs to understand its consumer deeply, and be able to address their needs in a scalable way – with clear fundamentals to growth and profitability.”

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About Andre

Andre Menezes co-founded food tech company Next Gen together with Timo Recker, formerly the founder of LikeMeat. Headquartered in Singapore, Next Gen marries cutting-edge technology with its diversified network of specialists to create plant-based products that deliver tantalising taste experiences.

If you’re interested in the food tech industry or passionate about plant-based products, connect with him here.

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