Beyond Meat is making headlines yet again, this time announcing that they are partnering with Chinese nationwide fast food operator Yum China to offer plant-based Beyond Burgers across select KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell locations across the country starting from June 3.
“We see great potential for the plant-based meat market in China,” said CEO of Yum China, Joey Wat.
“This latest introduction across KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell brands is expected to capture valuable consumer feedback across different regions in China. It will enable us to optimise flavours and processes and help assess the potential for larger scale rollouts in the future.”
Launching on June 3, five KFC locations in Beijing, Chengdu, Hangzhou and Shanghai will offer the Beyond Burger as a 3-day limited trial. Pizza Hut, on the other hand, will launch its first-ever burger offering with a bundle set that ironically serves up the Beyond Burger alongside a real beef burger in Shanghai from June 8 to 11. Taco Bell will create a new taco with the plant-based Beyond Burger patty at three stores in Shanghai for one week from June 3 onwards, which is likely to be popular after the chain launched an Omnipork plant-based taco earlier last year.
All 3 fast food chains in China – KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut – are operated by Yum China Holdings. The corporation to date operates over 9,000 locations in 1,400 cities in China – presenting a huge opportunity for Beyond Meat to capitalise on the growing plant-based trend in the country’s enormous market.
Ethan Brown, founder and CEO of Beyond Meat said described the partnership as an “encouraging and important milestone toward increased accessibility to our plant-based meat.”
Read: 5 signs plant-based food tech investment is heating up amid Covid-19 supply shock
This won’t be the first time that plant-based products will be served in KFC in China. Yum China partnered with controversial agribusiness giant Cargill to roll out fried plant-based chicken nuggets in select KFC locations in a trial last month, which the company said presale coupons in the first day sold out within the hour.
Beyond Meat officially entered the Chinese market in late April in a landmark collaboration with Starbucks China, which saw its products roll out on menus across all 3,300 locations in the country alongside Omnipork and Oatly.
Quickly following the Starbucks partnership, founder and CEO of Beyond Meat Ethan Brown revealed in an investor call that the company had finalised an agreement with major Chinese distributor Sinodis, which will help it roll out products across Chinese consumer retail and foodservice businesses.
Brown further stamped Beyond Meat’s commitment to expand in China in its latest first-quarter earnings report released shortly after the startup celebrated its one year anniversary of going public. In his remarks, Brown confirmed that the company is set to establish its localised production footprint before the end of 2020.
The latest news regarding Beyond Meat’s launch in KFC and Pizza Hut locations will no doubt ramp up the heat in the competition for a share of China’s growing plant-based market with its main rival Impossible Foods. The maker of the famous “bleeding” heme-filled plant-based patties has made clear that it has set its sights on launching in China, and has debuted two new plant-based Impossible pork products as a part of its strategy.
Read: What’s the actual difference between the Beyond & Impossible burger?
The demand for plant-based meat in China and other Asian markets has been steadily growing in recent years due to raised health, safety and supply concerns prompted by the ongoing African swine fever (ASF) outbreak, but the coronavirus pandemic has further raised the profile of plant-based foods as a sustainable and crisis-resilient solution.
While the Chinese economy is on the road towards normality as the outbreak eases in the country, recent news about a resurgence of avian influenza and the latest Div1 shrimp virus is likely to continue to stimulate consumer appetite for plant-based alternatives.
In the wake of the overlapping crises, a number of food businesses are quickly moving to roll out new plant-based options in China to serve the growing demand. Homegrown vegetarian food tech Starfield, for instance, recently announced it is working with 6 major restaurant chains to launch plant-based dishes across hundreds of restaurants across the country.
Meanwhile, a new platform called the China Food Tech Hub has been set up to link existing food industry giants including General Mills, Danone, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo with emerging startups that are developing food solutions for the Chinese market.
Lead image courtesy of Yum China / Designed by Green Queen Media.