It’s been an incredible week for the plant-based food industry in China. The latest to join in and break headlines is Starfield Food and Science Technology, a Chinese food tech that has created its own meat-free alternative. Considered the only “2.0” alternative meat venture in China that operates its own R&D and manufacturing facility in China, Starfield has now partnered with 6 major restaurant chains to offer plant-based dishes across the country.
In collaboration with 6 major restaurant chains – Papa John’s, Brut Eatery, Hong Li Village (红荔村), Nayuki, Gaga Chef and Element Fresh – Starfield has just launched dishes made from its proprietary vegetarian ground meat product across hundreds of restaurants in China this week.
Some of the new vegetarian menu items that Chinese consumers can look forward to include a Plant-Based Black Pepper Meatball Pizza made from Starfield’s meat substitute at Papa John’s, Starfield burgers across Brut Eatery, Gaga Chef and Element Fresh and plant-based rice noodle rolls stuffed with Starfield’s analogue at Hong Li Village.
Starfield’s ground meat substitute is primarily made from seaweed protein, and was developed by food scientists at Beijing Technology & Business University, Shenzhen University and Jiangnan University. Since its inception in 2019, the company has attracted funding from China-focused impact investment firm Dao Foods and early stage food tech investor New Crop Capital.
The startup was also recently featured in Green Queen’s Asia Alternative Protein Industry Report 2020, the most comprehensive dive into the region’s plant-based, cultivated and whole food meat innovation to date.
Over the past week, China’s food scene has exploded with a number of milestone plant-based launches, including Starbucks’ partnership with big name vegan food techs Beyond Meat, Omnipork and Oatly to launch an all-new plant-based menu across China. The menu, dubbed “Good Good”, will feature vegan lattes, meat-free Vietnamese noodle salad and pasta dishes.
Fast food giant KFC also rolled out a new trial initiative to debut plant-based fried chicken nuggets across several locations in China, collaborating with controversial agribusiness conglomerate Cargill to develop the product.
The wave of plant-based news in China comes as Covid-19 begins to ease in the country, with shops now beginning to reopen from the shutdown and daily life resuming in many cities.
Starfield previously alluded to its plans to aggressively push its growth across China after its angel funding round, citing the coronavirus pandemic as an event that will trigger stricter oversight of the safety of the animal industry in China and globally, and will convince more consumers to adopt plant-based alternatives in light of these concerns.
Speaking to Green Queen, co-founder of Dao Foods Albert Tseng said: “Covid-19 has been a real challenge for the F&B industry in China, but perhaps it is an opportunity. People’s minds are more open to considering new ways to live and eat. We’re excited that our partners over at Starfield are leading the way with sustainable and tasty plant-based options at hundreds of restaurants.”
The pandemic has also exposed the vulnerability of China’s food supply to external shocks, with travel bans and export restrictions causing a shortage of meat and dairy imports to Chinese shelves, further complicating China’s existing struggle with African swine fever (ASF), avian flu and the latest Div1 shrimp virus that has inundated local food production.
Given these events, it appears likely that the momentum for vegan and vegetarian food will only accelerate in the future in China, bringing about much-needed disruption to the global food economy.
Lead image courtesy of Starfield, designed by Green Queen Media.