Flexitarians in China are revitalising the mock meat tradition27 Jul 2020
Many Asian countries, China in particular, have traditions of mock meat but the region is developing a new, innovation-fuelled plant-based sector to meet the demands of urban flexitarians, say experts.
The tradition of mock meat in Asian countries is often cited as a reason for the sector’s guaranteed success in the region because, in theory, repeated exposure to meat analogues creates acceptance and an affinity with consumers.
However, these products have not been popular enough to stem rising levels of meat consumption and some suggest their ubiquitousness may in fact negate the novelty factor that is currently fuelling plant-based products in the West.
According to Elaine Siu, managing director of the Good Food Institute APAC, a non-profit organisation that promotes animal-free diets, mock meat products are “proven failures”.
“Yes, people know that these are mock meats or vegetarian meats. [There is] acceptance as in they accept this. It's nothing new to them. That doesn't mean that they are going to switch to these products,” she said.
Shirley Lu, executive director of non-profit organisation ProVeg East Asia, however, does not see this culinary heritage as a barrier because plant-based products of today offer something different.
“Soy products and tofu are deeply ingrained in society. Given the country’s embrace of innovation, we now expect China to develop a new plant-based culture, version 2.0, full of new, unique, and innovative plant-based and cultured meat products,” she told the Ingredients Network.
While most plant-based products in China today are still marketed at Buddhists, there are increasing numbers of flexitarians and reducetarians, primarily in urban areas, who are buying plant-based products for health reasons, Lu added.
According to a recent report by Green Queen, The Asia Alternative Protein Industry Report 2020, the perceived benefits and burdens of the mock meat tradition can co-exist and may have varying effects on different consumer groups, which should be taken this into account when marketing these products in Asia.
Local brands catering to local tastes
High-profile Western players, such as Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat and JUST, are all aggressively pursuing the Chinese market but Green Queen predicts that local companies will ultimately be more price competitive and better positioned to cater to local taste preferences.
“It is [our] view that homegrown Asian alternative protein companies will overtake US and European brands thanks to a variety of factors, and simply due to basic demand: the region is home to over four billion people, with over two billion in China and India alone,” wrote the Green Queen authors.
“Rising middle-class consumers are looking to make healthier, planet friendly choices and are ready to jump on new and more sustainable proteins.”
Local success stories
Several local brands have already found success. Indian plant-based company GoodDot has achieved price parity with meat while Green Monday-owned Omnipork, a ground pork alternative made from soy, rice, mushroom and peas that was developed specifically for Asian dishes, has seen sales skyrocket.
Green Monday recently shared that, since launching Omnipork in Taiwanese fast food chain Bafang Yunji in January 2020, they are selling one million Omnipork dumplings a week – equivalent to 52 million a year in Taiwan alone.
“This effectively dwarfs the much-advertised success of US players such as Impossible Foods - 13 million burger patties between 2016- 2018 total - and Beyond Meat - 25 million burger patties as of January 2019,” wrote Green Queen.
Lu from ProVeg agreed that demand for local brands remains high. “The traditional Chinese players continue to dominate the market, and we are seeing exciting Chinese start-ups making progress in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzen and Hangzhou, focusing on plant-based meat,” she said, although the introduction of Beyond Meat in China this year was well received, she added.
According to Lu, China is the most exciting country for new product development and also has the largest and fastest-growing demand for plant-based products.
Nonetheless, the region’s plant-based sector is still nascent. Green Queen counted just 22 Asian alternative protein start-ups that fit its criteria in terms of product quality, food technology and innovation.
New product development
In Western cuisine, meat is commonly eaten as whole cuts of meat or ground meat – hence the race to find an ingredient that provides the perfect texture to mimic a juicy steak or a burger.
In Asian cuisine, however, meat is often used in much smaller pieces, blended with other ingredients or added to products such as dumplings.
Green Queen said food scientists should focus on developing plant-based meat products with traits suitable to these applications.
According to Lu, projects such as the Plant-Based Food Innovation Contest, which launched in Shanghai last month and is co-organised by ProVeg International and the Shanghai Society of Food Science, are accelerating new product development.
Pressure on baby milk manufacturers intensifies over mineral oil traces
31 Jul 2020
Consumer watchdog Foodwatch is calling for EU member states and the European Commission to publish the results of official tests on the presence of potentially harmful aromatic mineral oil in baby milk and infant formula.Read more
PepsiCo Egypt CEO feels bullish about regional growth: ‘The opportunities are huge’
20 Jul 2020
PepsiCo recently announced a US$100m capital investments in Egypt, and its confidence in the country’s growth potential is unshaken even by coronavirus, says the CEO of PepsiCo Egypt.Read more
Sugar Association files citizen petition calling for clearer labelling of sweeteners
13 Jul 2020
The Sugar Association has filed a US citizen petition to require manufacturers to add front-of-pack disclosures regarding the use of non-nutritive sweeteners – but sweetener suppliers say ingredient lists already give consumers clear information.Read more
Natural, native and healthy: Latin America’s rising star superfoods
3 Jul 2020
From açaí to quinoa, chia to maqui, native Latin American superfoods give products a healthy, wholefood halo– and the region has plenty of undiscovered superfoods waiting to be commercialized, says one expert.Read more
Scientists develop next-generation DNA barcoding for food traceability
29 Jun 2020
Encapsulating fragile DNA barcodes into custom-made microbial spores creates a cheap and scalable tool for farm-to-fork traceability, say the Harvard scientists behind the research.Read more
Nutrition labels and healthy reformulation in Latin America
26 Jun 2020
Mexico’s front-of-pack warning nutrition label has entered into force. Will healthy reformulation follow?Read more
The importance of local flavours in NPD for the Asian market
22 Jun 2020
From Osmanthus flower soda in China to spiced chewing gum in India, using local flavours for successful new product development (NPD) in the Asian market has never been more important.Read more
UK organic food sales soar despite lockdown
22 Jun 2020
Sales of organic food in the UK have reached record levels and increased during the COVID-19 lockdown – but can the sales be sustained now that the panic buying has subsided?Read more
Investing in climate change-resistant crops
15 Jun 2020
Lucozade Ribena Suntory recently announced a £500,000 investment in developing new varieties of climate-resilient blackcurrant.Read more
Turkish regulation limits trans fats
14 Jun 2020
Turkey has become the latest country to limit the use of industrially produced trans fats. Are manufacturers ready and what solutions exist to replace partially hydrogenated oils?Read more
Are you a supplier
Here's what we can do for you
- Generate quality leads for your business
- Stay visible for 365 days of the year
- Receive product inquiries and respond to meeting requests directly
- Improve company online presence through Search Engine Optimisation