Chinese fast food giant Dicos, famous for its fried chicken, has just announced a new partnership with homegrown plant-based food tech Starfield to add plant-based chicken burgers to its menu nationwide. Boasting over 2,500 locations in the country, putting it on the same ranks as QSR majors like McDonald’s, the move by the KFC-rival is a strong signal of the growing demand amongst Chinese mainstream consumers for healthier and safer meatless options.
Announced on Tuesday (November 17), China’s third biggest fast food restaurant Dicos is rolling out a new burger made with Starfield’s plant-based chicken alternative across all its 2,500 stores nationwide. The promotion first made headlines on Chinese social media platform Weibo to mark the first large-scale nationwide partnership between a local food tech and fast food chain in mainland China, following previous limited-time trials launched by Yum China-operated KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell with foreign players like Beyond Meat, Cargill and OmniPork in select locations.
Earlier this year, Starbucks launched a new all-vegetarian menu with food techs Oatly, Beyond Meat and OmniPork, which was available nationwide, but did not involve any homegrown startups.
Our intention is to provide more young consumers in China with opportunities to try plant-based meat, while also advocating for a ‘green diet’ concept.Xie Ya-hui, Chief Marketing Officer at Dicos
As reported by local news outlet Red Star, the new plant-based chicken patties deliver the same taste and mouthfeel as its real animal counterpart and is sold at near price parity at RMB 20 (US$3). Dicos’ new plant-based chicken burgers will also be available via Alibaba’s e-commerce platform Tmall, and takeaway apps like Ele.me and Meituan.
“Our intention is to provide more young consumers in China with opportunities to try plant-based meat, while also advocating for a ‘green diet’ concept,” said Xie Ya-hui, chief marketing officer at Dicos.
Starfield landed in China in 2019 as one of mainland China’s first food techs. Headquartered in 2019, the company has developed a ground meat product using seaweed protein. Since its inception, Starfield has grown rapidly, partnering with more than 20 foodservice chains nationwide after initial trial launches with a number of major restaurants earlier this year.
It has recently raised an impressive US$10 million in a Series A funding round, which it says will use to set up an R&D facility in Shenzhen in anticipation of more product launches at an astonishing pace of four new products every month. The news came less than 6 months after the Shenzhen-based startup received angel investments from early stage food tech investment firm New Crop Capital and China-focused impact investor Dao Foods International.
Dicos’ decision to become the first major fast food chain in China to forge a nationwide stunt with a domestic plant-based meat brand is a strong indication of the pressure that brands are feeling to meet consumers’ changing appetites in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has raised consumer awareness on health, food safety and the environmental impact of the animal meat industry.
In Hong Kong, Green Monday won the race to become the first plant-based meat brand in the world to co-develop a menu series with the prized Golden Arches, available across all locations in the city and in Macau for the “long-term”.
All images courtesy of Dicos / Starfield.