Dubai-headquartered Food Specialities Limited (FSL) has won two Industry Excellence awards for its plant-based shish kebab and sugar-reduced chocolate spread which won the Innovative Ingredients Solutions category at Gulfood Manufacturing.

The plant-based shish-kebab is the first meat alternative solution designed to suit the Arab taste profile in a market surrounded by western meat alternatives. The healthy but indulgent chocolate spread breaks new ground by containing half the sugar of similar brands, but with all the sweetness and no sweeteners.

From its application lab in Dubai, the company developed the region’s first plant-based shish kebab with pea protein, coconut fat and plant fibres making the product rich in protein and fibres which adds a nutritional advantage over meat products which contain cholesterol, trans fats and zero fibre. The FSL vegan food solution is also 700% more sustainable in terms of greenhouse gas emissions than meat. 

The kebabs are free of soy and gluten making them allergen free and suitable for vegetarians, vegans, ‘flexitarians’, keto diets and those with certain allergies and intolerances. It’s also halal and free from dairy and egg. Made with the best plant-based ingredients sourced from world-renowned manufacturers in Europe, the product is also free from cholesterol, antibiotics and hormones found in meat.

FSL’s Head of Innovation and Marketing, Dhruv Dhawan, says: “We designed this product to cater to the Middle East consumer – kebabs are some of the most traditional meats consumed in Arabian, Indian and Persian cultures for centuries and we felt it was time to give this culinary tradition a space to thrive in the future of food. Our technical manager, Benet Abraham, has created an incredible texture and taste profile which releases the flavours of Arabia and opens the door to a healthier and more sustainable future.”

“Our food scientists and flavour experts worked tirelessly to create a product which ticks all the boxes, so it’s gratifying that their efforts have been rewarded with this accolade, especially as Gulfood Manufacturing was where we decided to debut the products.”

FSL closely tacks global and regional food and beverage sector trends and became acutely aware of the growing value of the plant-based food market in 2017. The plant-based meat market was valued at $7.7 billion in 2021 and will touch $9 billion this year with an estimated growth rate of over 15%, according to Statista.

This significant growth is being driven by the rising popularity of healthier diets and increased consumer awareness of the health, environmental and ethical benefits offered by plant-based food over animal products. Government-driven healthier eating initiatives along with significant investments are also driving the global market.

Healthy chocolate spread

FSL also won a Gulfood Manufacturing Industry Excellence Award for Innovative Ingredients Solutions for its plant-based and sugar-reduced chocolate spread at the Gulfood Manufacturing event. 

This ingredient solution revolutionises the chocolate spreads category which normally contain around 58% sugar.  Again, mindful of changing attitudes to eating treats and health concerns, FSL’s food scientists reduced the sugar content to half this amount, replacing the sugar with a proprietary new blend of fibres and proteins with a sweet taste. The ingredients are natural and the product is free of any artificial sweeteners. 

Perhaps the innovative health aspect caught the judge’s eyes, but according to Dhawan there’s another USP for FSL’s latest product – “Our solution is nut free, which allows the product to be used in schools. The most popular brand of chocolate spread contains hazelnuts which are not allowed in schools so we utilised a nature-identical nut flavour to bring the hazelnut into the product while making it nut-allergen free.”

“We also replaced the unhealthy and unsustainable palm oil which is prevalent in the spreads category with natural whole foods such as tahini and other healthy fats familiar to the Arab consumer.” Unsustainable milk powders have also been swapped out with healthy plant-based ingredients – making the product vegan as well.

The ingredient innovation doesn’t end there. The chocolate spread can also be customised to different flavours – blueberry, strawberry, raspberry, coconut and orange flavour variants to give children something else to smile about.

“Our innovations in this sector are causing ripples across the global chocolate spread sector which has been stagnant for three decades. Beyond the science, sustainable ingredients, and lack of artificial ingredients, our market testing revealed that kids love it –– which proves that you don’t need to add so much sugar to children’s products” adds Dhawan.  

FSL’s technical manager Rupen Neogi, who developed the product over the course of 18 months added, “We wanted to create a healthier indulgence product which will not only make children smile, but help protect their smiles and the future of our planet.” 

FSL, which has now won multiple awards for its food innovations, provides solutions, ingredients, flavourings, commodities and products to a vast array of clients  in the Middle East, Africa and India.