SinFooTech is all for creating a cleaner, greener future. So, when the local start-up discovered a method of turning soy whey − a by-product of tofu production − into a fruity and floral beverage, they spied a tasty opportunity for an alcoholic drink that checked all the eco-friendly boxes.
With that, Sachi was born. Containing 7 percent alcohol-by-volume with a similar flavour profile to Japanese sake, Moscato and apple cider, SinFooTech knew they had a winner on their hands. However, there was just one snag. Sachi had only been produced in small batches under laboratory conditions so far. Upscaling and streamlining their processes to meet the high standards needed for commercialisation and licencing was another ball game.
Realising what they were up against, CEO Jonathan Ng turned to IPI for help. “IPI is the catalyst of innovation and we hoped to tap their ecosystem of advisors to solve the technical problems our licensees might face, such as filtration and shelf life.”
After undergoing a thorough understanding of the company’s pain points and carefully selecting the best solution and advisor for them, IPI paired SinFooTech with with IA Dr Ong Mei Horng, a food science expertwith decades of experience in R&D innovation and commercialisation in the F&B industry. The company’s confidence in Dr Ong was cemented in the first meeting. “Dr Ong very professionally and patiently listened to and understood our challenges, requirements and expected outcomes. Within two hours, we were able to pinpoint many areas of improvement and she offered suggestions to improve our research. It was super efficient!” recalls Ng with a smile.
On her part, Dr Ong was intrigued by Sachi as an environmentally sustainable product. “It is such a brilliant idea to apply brewing science and technology to turn tofu whey into alcoholic beverages. In the process, SinFooTech is not only creating new products, but also bringing soy manufacturing closer to a circular economy.”
From brewing to bottling, Dr Ong offered advice to extend the shelf life of the product and connected the SinFooTech team with other industry veterans and domain experts. Through her efforts, they were surrounded with a wealth of fermentation, filtration and clarification knowledge as well as commercial insights into the brewing industry.
One critical obstacle was SinFooTech’s difficulty in replicating the filtration techniques on a larger commercial scale. As Sachi is produced using a by-product from food manufacturers, it cannot be brewed using conventional methods for beer or wine. For this, Dr Ong discussed potential solutions with a veteran master brewer and filtration expert who recommended various filtration and separation techniques. What followed was months of trials before the team successfully developed specialised technology to ensure consistency in the product’s purity and taste profile.
However, the new technology greatly reduced the conversion rate of soy whey to Sachi and the team was bent on achieving a 100% recovery rate. Recognising that this was unrealistic, Dr Ong kept them focused on creating a product that meets consumers’ expectations and is commercially viable.
After five years of research, coupled with bespoke advice from Dr Ong, Sachi was officially unveiled to the public in August 2021 to rave reviews from wine lovers to alcohol newbies alike. Today, the SinFooTech team is back in the laboratory busy developing different product variants including a carbonated version and potentially a soy whey spirit distilled from their soy wines.
“We are still in contact with Dr Ong,” explains Ng. “Our experience with her was an enlightening and enriching one. As we continue developing more products, we hope for more opportunities to work with her and IPI to grow our business and reach new markets.”