US-based Beyond Meat has announced a new partnership with Chinese agricultural technology platform Pinduoduo. The vegan meat manufacturer will open an online store on the egiant’s grocery marketplace to give mainland consumers access to flagship products including signature items such as Beyond Beef and Beyond Pork.
Beyond Meat’s new partnership is a first for Pinduoduo, no other international plant-based brands has listed on their platform so far. A recent Euromonitor International report suggests the Chinese market for vegan food could be worth $12 billion by next year.
Beyond’s ongoing relationship with China
Beyond’s collaboration with Pinduoduo is the latest move in mainland China, where the California plant-based meat brand has had a presence for a few years now. It started with a Starbucks launch in April 2020, which led to the announcement of establishing a domestic production facility later that year. This was realised in September, when a new facility was announced, as part of an agreement with Jiaxing Economic & Technological Development Zone. It made Beyond the first foreign plant-based company to gain a manufacturing foothold in the country.
Retail launches came through Alibaba Group and Metro supermarkets, both in 2020. Last year, JD.com became the latest Chinese ecommerce giant to add Beyond products to its portfolio. The partnership came alongside the debut of Beyond Pork, which proved popular with Asian consumers. A new online store on the Pinduoduo platform will afford wider access to Beyond’s beef and pork analogues, which can be supplied directly from the now operational Jiaxing production facility. A soon-to-be-completed Shanghai R&D centre will lend additional operational support.
Bolstering Beyond’s future
Predictions about China’s impending demand for plant-based meats offer optimism to Beyond at a time when it has been forced to offer transparency about disappointing revenues. Earlier this month, CEO Ethan Brown was forced to defend the company’s position, citing Covid-related difficulties as hampering company growth.
Q4 2021 proved especially challenging, with shares losing $1.27 in value and retail sales dropping off by 19.5 percent. Brown cited increased U.S. competition and aggressive promotional pricing as part of the problem and noted that significant investment had been made into China, to secure good results in the next 10 months.
Alongside increased China presence, Beyond has secured numerous strategic partnerships designed to maximise impact and recognition of the brand. Working with a host of QSR giants including McDonald’s, KFC and Panda Express is hoped to help stocks bounce back, as is the new PepsiCo collaboration, Planet Partnership. The latter just debuted its initial launch in the form of Beyond Meat Jerky, to help the vegan meat producer pivot into the snack sector.
China’s acceptance of plant-based meats
In the wake of African Swine Flu outbreaks and Covid-19, food security has become an increasingly pertinent issue for China. Heavily reliant on foreign imports, especially for meat, the county is increasingly looking at ways to guarantee its food stocks. Though offering products geared towards the Chinese market, and via popular platforms, is an astute move, Beyond might find that domestic competition will surge in months and years to come. Much as it did in the U.S.
China’s five-year agricultural plan included cultivated meat and ‘future foods’ as food systems that should be actively participated in. It is the first time such technological advances have been given space in the plan, marking a shift in Chinese attitudes towards meat consumption and procurement. This lends optimism to existing plant-based meats that there will be a bigger demand for healthy protein sources.
Earlier this month, President Xi reiterated the importance of domestic food production. Alluding to China’s growing alt-protein sector, his speech has been considered as a positive sign that government engagement might be increased with food tech companies. President Xi was empathic that the “rice bowls of the Chinese people must be filled with Chinese grain”, signalling potential increased competition for Beyond in the future.
All photos by Beyond Meat.