China’s Surging Alternative Protein Sector Gets Government Support Ahead Of Next Food Tech Boom

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After reviewing public records, The Good Food Institute (GFI) APAC, a non-profit that works to expedite the alternative protein industry across the region, has determined that China’s alternative protein sector is being increasingly better funded to support scale-up and product development. Previous recipients of similar financial allocations in China include solar panel developers and electric vehicle manufacturers. Given that both of the latter industries have become global leaders on the world stage, this is an encouraging sign for the mainland’s growing ecosystem.

Government funding for alternative protein, though a fraction of what it could be, demonstrates a rise in sector interest. By giving domestic companies access to investment, China could position itself favourably ahead of global sector growth.

Image courtesy of CellX.

A paradigm shift for climate change

“There is no pathway to achieve the climate goals set out in the Paris Agreement without changing how we produce protein, but encouraging new evidence suggests that Chinese leaders understand the massive benefits of making meat from plants and growing it directly from cells,” the GFI APAC said in a statement.

Plant-based and cultivated meat interests are set to benefit from increased public spending. The Green Biological Manufacturing programme has already invested around $93 million in future-focussed technologies, spread out over more than 20 projects. Alternative protein was represented, claiming approximately $3.1 million. 

Consumer curiosity for China’s alternative protein is on the rise. It has been demonstrated that up to 70 percent of the Chinese population are open to trying cultivated meats. Of them, 62 percent would be happy to swap it for conventional meat. Reasons included leveraging better food safety and participation in innovation. The findings were reported by Chloe Dempsey at the Future foods Asia conference in 2020. 

These figures represent potential environmental breakthroughs for arable land-poor regions such as China. Cultivated meat requires a fraction of the land, water and energy used by farmers to rear animals for slaughter. This in turn will create food security and protect indigenious biodiversity.

No information has been released as to the Chinese government’s official motivation for funding alternative protein development. It has been suggested that insurmountable disruptions to supply chains in 2020 played a part. Having to deal with an outbreak of African swine fever, it was also suggested that the Chinese government is more open and amenable to plant-based and cultivated alternatives, both domestic and foreign.

Image courtesy of Starfield.

China’s experts in the field

Despite not having access to as much government funding as there is scope for, the Chinese alt-protein sector is making strides forward.

Last year, Shanghai-based CellX unveiled its first cultivated pork development. The reveal followed the closing of a $4.3 million funding round. The investment was reportedly earmarked for fast and extensive expansion to fast-track commercial sale of cultivated meat products. 

Plant-based dairy is also progressing in China. Beijing-founded Marvelous Foods has just announced that it has scooped $1.2 million in supplementary funding, for company-wide expansion. New plant-based dairy product lines are anticipated, alongside awareness campaigns for the in-house Yeyo brand.

Most significantly, Starfield Food Science & Technology raised a record $100 million investment just recently. The Series B funding round represents the biggest ever of its kind for a vegan protein brand. Expansion of production capabilities and ongoing R&D are set to be the biggest beneficiaries of the cash injection. While improving on taste and texture profiles, new lines will be launched. These will include plant-based pork chops and braised beef.


Lead image courtesy of Unsplash.

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