Today, many of us have sampled a meat alternative, whether you’ve chowed down on sticky-sweet soy nuggets at a modern vegetarian restaurant or a deliciously smoky Impossible cheeseburger at the bar. Though these foods may look and taste like real meat, they’re actually alternative proteins: meat substitutes made from plants like grains, legumes and fungi, or derived from ethically-harvested animal cells.

what are alternative proteins?

Alternative proteins refer to a diverse range of protein sources that are not derived from traditional animal agriculture. These innovative protein options are developed using various methods and ingredients to provide sustainable and environmentally friendly alternatives to conventional animal-based protein production such as meat, dairy, and seafood products.

emerging market for future protein solutions

With advancements in food technology and increasing consumer awareness of environmental and health concerns, alternative proteins have gained significant attention as a promising solution to meet the growing global demand for protein in a more sustainable and responsible way.

Singapore has emerged as a key player in the alternative proteins industry, leveraging its strong research and development capabilities, supportive government initiatives, and strategic geographical location. Recognising the importance of sustainable food solutions, Singapore has actively fostered an ecosystem conducive to the growth of alternative proteins.

The industry is bursting with potential - and limitless flavour - in Singapore, where investments in the alternative proteins market doubled from US$85 million in 2021 to US$170 million in 2022.

The sunny city-state has been cultivating more than just lab-grown pork; it’s home to more than 60 alternative proteins companies. For start-ups looking to test and produce their innovative offerings, setting up in Singapore is ideal thanks to its vibrant ecosystem: strong regulatory support, ready access to funding and state-of-the-art facilities.

In line with its goal to produce a third of its food locally by 2030, Singapore has made concerted efforts to nurture and attract skilled talent and the country aims to add 4,700 agritech jobs this year.

Last year, government agencies Workforce Singapore (WSG) and the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) rolled out a career conversion programme with Republic Polytechnic to grow a local talent pipeline to support its food security goals. Meanwhile, foreign experts in agritech, which includes alternative proteins food application scientists, will be prioritised in the point-based assessment process to help narrow the industry’s science and engineering talent gap.

For professionals looking to enter the alternative proteins sector in Singapore, there’s no better time than now to explore your options. In this article, find out what the most in-demand jobs are in the alternative proteins industry and the qualifications you’ll need for pursuing a career.

alternative protein singapore
alternative protein singapore

3 types of alternative proteins jobs in singapore

As over 90% of Singapore's food is imported, protecting our food sources - and by extension, our climate - is a top priority for the nation. Through fostering greater agritech innovation, the country aims to reduce its carbon footprint and strengthen its food security through creating accessible alternatives to traditional protein sources.

While there is a very high demand for candidates with technical skills in the alternative foods industry in Singapore, most employers are still navigating this emerging field where finding a fully experienced professional is near impossible.

Instead of hiring fully-fledged life sciences talent, employers are open to hiring people who have some levels of technicality and expertise, as well as a strong passion to learn and drive growth in sustainable foods. Often, the individuals who proactively upskill themselves in sustainability, business modelling and research and development (R&D) are more likely to become pioneers in the sustainable food industry.

Alternative proteins jobs typically require technical talent who specialise in food chemistry or biological engineering. The most useful technical skills they possess involve disciplines like food science, process development, manufacturing and food safety.

There is also a preference for specialists who have experience working with meat substitutes, savoury ingredients or starches. They may also have a background in R&D for companies in food and beverages or pharmaceuticals.

Talent with both culinary and food science backgrounds are also highly sought-after for their expertise both in the kitchen and the lab. However, they usually do not need prior experience in an area like sensory evaluation, where people are trained to identify the taste, texture and flavour profiles of food samples to subjectively assess product quality.

As emerging jobs in alternative proteins range from technical to commercial, both specialists and competent talent from adjacent industries will find no shortage of roles in the burgeoning space.

1. alternative proteins R&D scientist

Much like a traditional R&D scientist for food products, an alternative proteins R&D scientist focuses on creating products that are safe to use or consume. When looking for a job in this field, you may use the search terms “food researcher”, “alternative meat scientist” or “R&D scientist” or look for sustainable food companies that you would like to work for.

A company might employ an R&D scientist to produce the right mycoproteins, or fungi-based alternative proteins with meat-like textures, for products like meatballs or chicken nuggets.

To create a product that can successfully go to market, an alternative proteins R&D scientist often researches flavours and textures to establish quantitative and qualitative methods to describe the nutritional, sensory and safety aspects of new products.

They prepare sample prototypes for testing and conduct both consumer and expert sensory test panels. For example, they may do this to ensure that an alternative proteins product really tastes, smells and feels like chicken.

These specialists may also assist the company in obtaining approvals from food and health authorities for human consumption. R&D food scientists can also publish their findings on papers and give talks in conferences to create new partnership opportunities for the company. In some cases, they will work closely with process engineers to scale production once the ingredient is approved for use.

soft skills of an alternative proteins specialist:

  • A logical and investigative mind
  • Good communication skills and a sense of initiative
  • Is able to be responsible and accountable for assigned projects, timelines and deadlines
  • Can work independently and with other teams

technical requirements of an alternative proteins specialist:

  • A Bachelor’s degree in food technology, food science, food engineering or a related field
  • Experience in developing alternative proteins food products, from preparing recipe designs to establishing analytical food science procedures
  • A deep understanding of biological engineering
  • Certified in food regulation and food safety

2. alternative proteins process engineer

An alternative proteins process engineer is responsible for developing and implementing system and equipment processes in an industrial setting. Process engineers may lead production trials with operations personnel, product developers, ingredient suppliers, and other experts to deliver new products.

Sometimes, they’re also referred to as “bioprocess engineers” or “manufacturing process engineers”.

Alternative proteins companies may hire process engineers to optimise scale-up and downstream fermentation processes. Generally, this means that they’ll ensure that product recipes are compliant with food safety standards and are stable enough to scale from the lab to commercial production.

These engineers may lead production trials with product developers, ingredient suppliers and operations personnel to deliver new products. During testing, they will also work with R&D scientists to collect data and help to prepare trial reports to align the company’s stakeholders on project progress.

Beyond this key duty, process engineers are involved in managing important vendor relationships to identify new technologies or equipment for use in the manufacturing process.

soft skills of an alternative proteins process engineer:

  • Strong oral and written communication skills
  • A hands-on attitude and a proactive mindset
  • Analytical with strong problem-solving skills

technical requirements of an alternative proteins process engineer:

  • A Bachelor’s degree in manufacturing, mechanical engineering or a related field
  • Experience operating bioreactors at pilot, demo, or commercial scale
  • Experience with kinetic modelling or data science using open-source tools like R, Python, or Matlab
  • Develop and optimise industrial processes from inception to start up and certification

3. alternative proteins market manager

An alternative proteins market manager is responsible for planning and driving the commercial growth of the alternative proteins segment within a company’s food and beverage business.

There are different job titles for “market manager” depending on the industry and company’s workforce structure. They may be called “marketing account manager” or “business development manager” in other companies or agencies, but they have similar tasks and responsibilities.

Regardless of the exact title, the main responsibility of a market manager is to help the company grow key relationships and develop commercial agreements with brands and potential customers.

In this role, the alternative proteins market manager works with cross-functional teams across product and business development to grow their pool of buying customers, and maintain relationships to ensure that existing customers are satisfied with the product and services. They are also responsible for sharing customer feedback with R&D scientists and process engineers to make product improvements.

Specialists in this role are also responsible for identifying new sales opportunities and conducting product training or presenting market research to internal stakeholders and trade customers.

soft skills of an alternative proteins market manager:

  • Able to educate customers about the company’s products
  • Ability to confidently pitch and present to increase customers and drive revenue
  • Is independent, solutions-driven and results-oriented
  • Passionate about the alternative proteins industry
  • Strong communication and negotiation skills

technical requirements of an alternative proteins market manager:

  • A Bachelor’s degree in food science, bioprocessing, engineering, or business development
  • Strong passion for alternative proteins and a passion for sales 
  • Track record of developing new product marketing lines and carrying out go-to-market strategies within FMCG or bioprocessing technology industries
  • Ability to maintain a high level of relevant domain knowledge
  • Certified in sustainability or food technology

get a free digital report: in-demand jobs and skills in singapore’s alternative proteins industry.

partner with randstad

If you’re scouting for alternative proteins talent in Singapore for the first time, let us help you market map and source specialised talent for your recruitment needs. Connect with our recruitment specialists to learn more about talent expectations and key labour trends to effectively plan your talent strategy for the year.

Alternatively, if you are a candidate who is passionate about sustainability fields and looking for a way to enter, check out our latest job listings in Life Sciences and apply for jobs.

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