Tempeh dates back several centuries to the island of Java in Indonesia. It is a naturally fermented product which was discovered accidentally when soyabeans were left to ferment and turned into a firm cake-like block, which was found to be easy to cook and absorbed flavours quickly becoming a favourite among locals. Over decades and centuries of use it became known as a ‘miracle food’ that has positively addressed grave issues such as child malnutrition in Indonesia, especially among the poor.
Like any food or ingredient that has stood the test of time, it has real merit and has benefited generations of users. It’s popular with vegans and vegetarians because it has vitamin B12 and is a complete source of protein. That means it has all nine of the essential amino acids your body needs for healthy bones and muscles. In fact, it is the world’s best kept protein food secret. It’s versatility, appealing texture and nutrition profile makes it a perfect ingredient for the Indian kitchen.
Speaking about the challenges of the plant-based protein market in India, Siddharth Ramasubramanian, Founder & CEO, Vegolution which owns the Hello Tempayy ready-to-cook tempeh brand says, “We only see opportunity because, at Hello Tempayy, we don’t define it as the plant-based protein market. We look at consumer needs and wants which falls into two distinct groups: first- vegetarians looking for more food options to increase their protein intake and second- a non-vegetarians who are trying to reduce their meat intake for health or ethical reasons. From this vantage point we see a large audience that is yearning for new products that satisfy their tastebuds without compromising on nutrition. It is also widely accepted now, among health experts, that a diet primarily comprising plant-based foods is better for long term health.”
The government’s role in protein nutrition
Building awareness around the importance of protein and other supporting nutrients in one’s daily diet can yield very positive long-term results for India, which ranks among the lowest in the world in per capita protein consumption. Today, with social media and OTT content consumption on the rise, information can reach more people at a faster rate. Digital commerce has also grown exponentially during Covid, providing easier access to customers.
The government is already doing a stellar job in driving awareness around health, yoga, and nutrition. Siddharth opines, “I have no doubt the central government will drive this agenda even further as India heads into the Covid-recovery phase. Over the last year, health and nutrition has been foremost on everyone’s mind and we don’t see that changing. It’s the role of private enterprise to make great products that consumers love while pricing it for accessibility.”
Dr Sowmya Bharani, PhD and RD Nutritionist, Nutrigeneus says, “India being a predominantly vegetarian country, almost 3/4th of the population are protein deficient. Women and athletes are at higher risk of protein deficiency. “
Are plant-based proteins a good source of protein?
Dr Sowmya explains, “Plant-based proteins may not contain the complete amino acid profile needed to be considered a complete protein or a good quality protein. Hence most plant-based proteins have to be paired with other plant sources to give it a complete nutrition profile eg cereals and pulses are combined to make it a better quality protein.”
Soya proteins are made from soya beans, so they are concentrated sources of protein. Dr Sowmya adds, “Proteins derived from soya is a complete protein meaning it contains all the amino acids needed to support health. Many things are made from soya including soya flour and Tempeh. Tempeh is a fermented soya bean product and provides additional benefits such as improving gut health and easier digestibility.”
Soybeans are also the richest source of isoflavones. These are chemicals called phytoestrogens that have cancer-fighting and antioxidant properties.
Hello Tempayy products are clean-label and are made with only three base ingredients - non-GMO soyabeans, water and the brand’s fermentation culture. The soyabeans are sourced from farmers in Madhya Pradesh. All the ingredients used to make the marinades are natural and sourced within India.
Vegolution aims to bridge the protein gap in India through tasty vegetarian/vegan food products. Siddharth informs, “To achieve this goal, we have identified Tempeh as the ideal base ingredient which delivers on every level. Our plans are two-pronged - first to introduce new Tempeh-based products across occasions from snacking to main meals in retail and e-commerce and secondly to make tempeh available to restaurants across India.”
Nutritional Benefits of Tempeh/ Per 100 gms
Energy - 178 kcal
Protein - 19 g – 35% RDA
Total Fat - 6.8 g
Saturated Fats - 1.4 g
Cholesterol - 0 mg
Transfat - 0 mg
Carbohydrates - 10.1 g- 8% RDA
Dietary Fibre - 8.5 g- 27% RDA
Sugars- 0 g
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