Could this 300-Year-Old Plant Protein be the Future of Food?

Tempeh, the all-natural plant-based protein originating in Indonesia, is quickly growing in popularity. We decided to talk to the tempeh experts at Better Nature, who are utilising its fantastic properties within their product line. They believe that tempeh is a nutritional powerhouse, with all of the potential to become one of the world’s leading protein sources. We asked their Co-Founder Elin why. 

Elin Roberts, Co-Founder of Better Nature

by Elin Roberts

Tempeh (pronounced tem-pay) was originally discovered in Java Island in Indonesia over 300 years ago. Its production involves cooking and fermenting soybeans (or any other legume, nut, grain or seed) to put simply, make them better! Through the fermentation process, the soybeans’ protein content increases, fat content decreases and most importantly, the nutrients in the soybeans become far more easily absorbed by the body. For example, through fermenting cooked soybeans the protein absorbed by the body increases by 25%, and this even rises to 87% in buckwheat groat tempeh (references below). 

Tempeh is also a complete protein source, meaning it contains all the 9 essential amino acids our bodies need to function. It has the same protein content per 100g as cod and mackerel and more than that of eggs. It has 2-4 times the fibre of an apple per 100g and counts as one of your five a day. It is all-natural, minimally-processed and packed with micronutrients like iron and calcium. Tempeh is also rich in antioxidants and has shown potential to reduce rates of various types of cancer, which is something our co-founder Driando looked into for his PhD at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. It doesn’t end there (if you can believe it!) – our R&D team in Bogor, Indonesia are currently working on world-leading tempeh research which will make our tempeh even more nutritious by naturally enhancing its Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D contents. 

Tempeh is leading the way in sustainability. Soy tempeh creates 94% less CO2 emissions than beef, 78% less than pork and 62% less than chicken (references below). The protein it provides per kilogram of CO2 emitted is approximately 93% higher than beef, 77% higher than pork and 64% higher than chicken (references below). It also uses less water and land than meat, as the beans are fed directly to humans rather than being fed to animals first. Beyond this, tempeh is remarkably easy to cook – it quickly absorbs whatever marinade, sauce or spice mix it’s cooked in and can be baked, grilled, steamed or fried in a matter of minutes. Once cooked it has a rich, meaty bite that suits almost any dish, from a stir fry to a taco to a pasta dish. As you can probably tell by now, the benefits of tempeh are endless!

We believe that tempeh has all the attributes that the market is desperately calling out for. In Mintel’s Meat-Free Foods Report released in November 2019, they found that 52% of people have reduced their meat intake due to health concerns and 68% of meat-free buyers cite health attributes as influencing their choices when buying meat-free products. This concern for health has only increased during Covid-19 – in a study by FMCG Gurus it was found that 59% of people have become more conscious about their overall health and 57% have about their immunity. As a result, 73% say that they plan to eat and drink healthier and 37% plan to do this through increasing their protein intake. Sustainability is also a key factor for purchasing decisions, with Mintel reporting that 48% of consumers see eating meat-free as a way to be more eco-friendly and FMCG Gurus claiming that 55% of consumers are now more conscious of the environment since Covid-19. We think tempeh is in the perfect position to cater to these growing consumer needs and encourage even more people to eat plant-based. 

At Better Nature, our mission is to make protein without compromise – protein that doesn’t compromise on people, the planet and animals. Through tempeh fermentation, we are able to do this and make products that are natural, planet-friendly, plant-based and of course totally delicious. While we love tempeh by itself, we see amazing potential for tempeh fermentation to create a range of more intuitive meat-free products. We’ve already created our Tempeh Rashers, Tempeh Mince and Better Bites, and have many more exciting products in the pipeline that we can’t wait to share with you all soon. We truly see tempeh as the future of the plant-based industry and are so excited to keep innovating with this incredible food. 

Amazon Prime Day 2020 (13th – 14th October) is supporting Better Nature, the small business championing tempeh.

Amazon is investing more than £75 million to support small businesses globally with special Prime Day and holiday season promotional programmes – Prime members who spend £10 with select small businesses selling in Amazon’s store now through to Monday 12th October will earn £10 to spend on Prime Day


  8. Stodolak, B. & Starzynska-Janiszewska, A. The influence of tempeh fermentation and conventional cooking on anti-nutrient level and protein bioavailability (in vitro test) of grass-pea seeds. J. Sci. Food Agric. 88, 2265–2270 (2008).
  9. Wronkowska, M., Christa, K., Ciska, E. & Soral-Śmietana, M. Chemical Characteristics and Sensory Evaluation of Raw and Roasted Buckwheat Groats Fermented by R hizopus Oligosporus. Journal of Food Quality 38, 130–138 (2015)

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