Hong Kong’s plant-based eatery MANA! has just opened its largest store to date in Soho. In the midst of almost a year of economic difficulty in Hong Kong, the launch of the popular vegan and vegetarian restaurant chain’s newest and biggest outlet is a strong signal that the tide is turning for plant-based food in Hong Kong, driven by mass consumer demand for healthier, safer and more environmentally-friendly options in the city’s competitive restaurant scene.
Plant-based diners on the rise
Plant-based chain MANA! recently opened a 2,500 square foot restaurant on Staunton Street, at the heart of Central’s Soho district. It’s double the size of its previous Central and Poho locations, which had both ceased operations in late April this year, and will serve as a bigger and bolder replacement for its original outlets.
Just a few years ago, it would be considered a risky move for a plant-based operator to launch a sizable outlet in the bustling Soho neighbourhood. But now, it is evident that Hong Kong has changed as a market for foodservice, and that plant-based food is increasingly accepted and embraced amongst local consumers.
In a statement, the brand cited the decision to open its newest destination as a “direct response to customers’ growing appetite for plant-based and eco-friendly alternatives to fast food.”
Indeed, data on Hong Kong’s food industry suggests that the landscape for plant-based food is entering into mainstream territory, and is creating business opportunities despite the rocky landscape for the food industry that has undergone a year of hardship, from social unrest to the coronavirus.
In an Ipsos survey commissioned by Hong Kong plant-based group Green Monday, the city’s young consumers in particular reported that they are increasingly open to adopting a plant-based diet for various reasons, spanning from environmental to health and animal welfare. Health remained a top priority, with 1 in 4 participants in this demographic saying they are very likely to reduce meat consumption as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.
For David Yeung, the founder and CEO of Green Monday, these results reveal a huge market for foodservice operators to capitalise on in the city. In a recent interview with Green Queen, he described the findings as “hard evidence” that the current crisis has “solidified” the trajectory of plant-based going forward.
Flexitarianism is skyrocketing
While plant-based eaters have definitely risen in numbers and contributed to the fast-growing demand for vegan and vegetarian options in the city, so has the marked increase in the numbers of flexitarians in the city.
According to the latest data, a record of 34% of the Hong Kong population – 2.5 million people – now identify as flexitarian eaters.
The trend was already steadily underway before the pandemic hit too. In early January, food delivery operator Deliveroo Hong Kong’s general manager Brian Lo told Green Queen that the company had recorded increasing numbers of meat-free orders because “customers are more frequently opting-in for ‘part-time vegan’ diets”.
There is, however, little doubt that the coronavirus has driven greater numbers of flexitarian eaters in the city due to raised health, safety and supply chain concerns.
Releasing its latest sales statistics, Deliveroo Hong Kong revealed that while vegan orders have increased a whopping 100% since last year, 20% of this increase came from just the first few months of 2020 alone.
“Restaurants are seeing the growing trend, and have added more vegan and vegetarian menu items to attract customers,” a spokesperson for Deliveroo explained to Green Queen.
“Almost every district across the city has seen a boost in restaurants on the Deliveroo platform that offer plant-based dishes, to meet the growing demand for healthier, greener choices, with the number of Deliveroo partner restaurants serving vegan items in some districts more than doubling.”
MANA! Soho adds to its menu
No doubt to serve the increasing number of diners in Hong Kong open to plant-based foods, MANA! Soho has expanded its menu items and its overall offering, including a new “flatzza” – half pizza, half flat creation, an organic drinks bar and Hong Kong’s first vegan cheese deli, which will serve artisan small-batch plant-based bries, bleues and chèvre.
Many of its existing menu favourites remain, including its flats, build-your-own salads, burgers and drinks bar serving organic coffee, beer, booze and kombucha. The chain’s trademark ecological features will also be on full display at the new location, such as its in-house recycling and compost bins, which turns food waste scraps and compostable packaging into soil compost each month.
All images courtesy of MANA!.