a beyond meat plant-based burger

China’s Urban Consumers Are Hyped About Plant-based Meat

A recent Peking University study found that almost 100% of consumers in four major Chinese cities are willing to buy plant-based meat alternatives

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3:26 AM HKT, Sat March 11, 2023 1 mins read

A group of researchers at Peking University’s School of Advanced Agricultural Sciences surveyed Chinese urban consumers and found that they hold overwhelmingly positive views towards plant-based meat.

Of the 579 respondents — all residents of Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, or Chongqing — 85% had already eaten plant-based meat, largely out of an interest in healthy food or a desire to try new things. Further, 99.8% reported that they were willing to buy meat alternatives made in China.

This positive response to meat alternatives is good news for the Chinese government, which announced in 2016 that it planned to cut the country’s meat intake in half by 2030 as part of an effort to reduce carbon emissions.

The results of the Peking University study are not all that surprising, however. According to Daxue Consulting, China makes up 53% of the world’s meat substitution industry, which includes plant-based meat, even though fewer than 5% of people are vegan or vegetarian.

This phenomenon may be apparent to anyone who has stepped foot into a Starbucks, KFC, Burger King, McDonald’s, or even a Lawson convenience store in China in the past few years, all of which serve plant-based meat alternatives.

mcdonald's plant based meat burger

McDonald’s plant-based meat burger set. Image via Xiaohongshu

The popularity of imitation meat can be primarily attributed to Chinese consumers’ interest in healthy living. As of 2020, organic food consumption in the country had grown by 125% since 2015; China’s health supplement industry, meanwhile, has become the world’s second-largest.

The Daxue Consulting article mentioned above explains: “Chinese people believe sustainable food is healthy… ‘Flexitarian’ is a preferred concept to describe Chinese people’s diets, which are not fully committed to either veganism or vegetarianism but are willing to reduce their meat consumption due to cultural factors and health concerns.”

It’s also important to note that faux meat has a centuries-long history in China. In the 10th century, hundreds of years after vegetarianism was officially adopted by Buddhists, meat alternatives such as smoked bean curd were created to cater to monastery visitors and others who were transitioning to vegetarianism.

International plant-based meat companies have worked to adapt their products for the Chinese market. Beyond Meat, for example, has created vegan takes on traditional Chinese dishes and partnered with domestic fast-food chain Dicos to promote their meat alternatives.

a dicos and beyond meat collaboration food truck

A Dicos and Beyond Meat food truck collaboration. Image via Xiaohongshu

However, because the Peking University study only focused on urban consumers, it remains to be seen whether the rest of China will get on board with the plant-based meat craze.

Cover image via Beyond Meat

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