Zhenmeat, a new Chinese food-tech startup, brings plant-based meat analogs tailored to Chinese cuisines, from dimsum to stuffed peppers to mooncakes. The Beijing-based company launches their plant-protein and fungus based meat alternative on the market today, and hopes to not only target vegans and vegetarians, but meat eaters too.
Dubbed the “Chinese version of Impossible Foods”, Zhenmeat is the latest Asian based plant-based meat company to break into the meat alternative market. The name, which is a play on the Chinese characters for “precious” and “real”, which are both pronounced as Zhen, reflects the company’s mission to create a precious plant-based alternative that tastes just like meat. Zhenmeat plant-based products include sausages, steak, faux meat mooncakes and meatballs. The vegan-friendly products are made out of a mixture of plant proteins, including pea, soy, brown rice, and fungus-based protein sourced from mushrooms.
As sales of new of plant-based meat alternatives continue to soar globally, most vegan alternative meats on the market are catered to the Western palette and cater to Western cuisine. Aside from Hong Kong’s Green Monday, whose RightTreat venture launched their minced-pork alternative Omnipork to huge fanfare, and Malaysia’s Phuture Foods who are working to launch their plant pork product, there is still room for more variety and innovation when it comes to meat substitutes suited to typical Chinese dishes.
The launch of Zhenmeat comes at a time when the Chinese demand for meat alternatives is riding an unprecedented high. With the outbreak of the African swine fever epidemic in Asia, China has already culled over 1 million pigs, with figures expected to rise, and the government has called on its citizens to reduce pork consumption. While David Yeung’s Omnipork has been a major disruptor in the plant-based market and is set to launch in China soon, Zhenmeat founder Vince Lu argues that China’s protein supply chain will also benefit from his company’s introduction.
“China’s breakneck economic growth has led to a big demand for quality protein,” he said in conversation with the SCMP. As of now, neither Impossible Foods nor Beyond Meat is available in China.
What sets Zhenmeat apart from its overseas rivals, such as Silicon Valley-based Beyond Meat, is that it is tailored to replicate the texture and taste of meat used in traditional Chinese cuisine. Asia has a long tradition of faux meat products, with Taiwan as a leader in the space. These vegetarian imitation meats feature heavily in Chinese Buddhist restaurants and tend to be soybean-based, thus lacking a real one-to-one resemblance to animal meat.
Inspired by the success of American companies who have developed meat alternatives that looks and taste like meat, Lu developed his plant and fungus protein recipe with natural flavour extracts and spices to imitate meat in Chinese dishes. Lu hopes that this will mean the general public who remain meat eaters will enjoy the product as much as vegans and vegetarians.
So far, the startup has secured RMB 5 million from Chinese investors, and will be selling their products online as well as through F&B/restaurants partners in China. According to the founder, the company currently has no plans to expand overseas.
Lead image courtesy of SCMP.