The Vegetarian Butcher has rolled out six new plant-based meat alternative products for foodservice businesses in China, after the brand landed in the country for the first time in December. The new products will be available for chefs across the country to “get cooking with our new meat” as flexitarianism and plant-based eating becomes increasingly mainstream amongst Chinese consumers.
The Vegetarian Butcher, the Dutch plant-based brand and Unilever subsidiary, has just launched its plant-based meat products for foodservice players in China. Rolling out six plant-based meat alternatives in total, the products will be made available to chefs across the country who are looking to incorporate alternative proteins to cater to consumer demand for healthier, sustainable plant-based options on menus.
Announcing the launch in a social media post, The Vegetarian Butcher said: “Our food revolution just got bigger! We are excited to share that China is the next stop in our mission to become the biggest butcher in the world.”
“From today, six of our products will be available for chefs in foodservice to get cooking with our new meat.”
We are excited to share that China is the next stop in our mission to become the biggest butcher in the world.The Vegetarian Butcher
Among the new plant-based meat products for foodservice are analogues for beef steak, beef slices, meatballs, minced meat, pork slices and chicken nuggets. The Vegetarian Butcher says that these products, primarily made from soy protein, are designed to be easily incorporated into a number of dishes in Chinese cuisine, such as stir-fries, dumpling fillings and noodles.
The brand first landed in the Chinese market in late 2020, through a partnership with fast food giant Burger King, supplying the chain with its plant-based patties to roll out a meatless Whopper across 325 outlets in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hangzhou.
According to The Vegetarian Butcher, its products have already been “endorsed by famous chef and meat lover Da Dong”, referring to founder of the Da Dong Roast Duck Restaurant, chef Dong Zhenxiang, whose Peking duck empire has been consistently rated among the top restaurants in Beijing.
The Dutch brand added that the new foodservice roll out will “show all Chinese meat lovers that they don’t have to sacrifice a thing”.
It’s a timely move for the brand, with plant-based eating becoming increasingly popular amongst Chinese consumers in recent months, prompting a government-affiliated body to establish the country’s first-ever voluntary standard for plant-based meat products sold in China.
Six of our products will be available for chefs in foodservice to get cooking with our new meat.The Vegetarian Butcher
In a report released in February, market analysts cited the rise in pandemic-related food safety, health and sustainability concerns as the drivers behind the major uptick in flexitarianism in mainland China, particularly among mainstream shoppers.
The research further suggested that key opportunities in the Chinese market for plant-based meat players lie in B2B collaborations, such as restaurant and foodservice partnerships, which will help raise consumer awareness and foster familiarity with the mass market.
Expansion into the enormous Chinese market will be a key part of Unilever’s plant-forward business strategy, with the firm’s CEO Alan Jope saying that the global plant-based trend is not one to be missed.
“We are seeing in every single country in the world a shift towards more plant-based diets, even in emerging markets,” said Jope. His comments followed the Anglo-Dutch conglomerate’s ambitious €1 billion (approx. US$1.2 billion) sales target for its plant-based sector within the next five to seven years.
The Vegetarian Butcher, or De Vegetarische Slager as the company is known in Dutch, was founded in 2007 by farmer Jaap Korteweg, who helped pioneer the idea of animal meat analogues made from plants years before U.S. behemoths Beyond Meat (est. 2009) and Impossible Foods (est. 2011). Unilever acquired the brand in 2018 for an undisclosed sum. At the time, it was already in 17 international markets.
Aside from China, Unilever has taken The Vegetarian Butcher brand into more than 30 international markets, notably partnering with fast food chain Burger King to launch a meatless Whopper across Europe, Middle East and most recently in the U.K. The Vegetarian Butcher products have also landed in Hong Kong at a handful of restaurants.
All images courtesy of The Vegetarian Butcher.