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Beijing plant-based dairy company Marvelous Foods has scooped $1.2 million in new funding. Lever VC and New Climate Ventures, amongst others, participated in the round. The investment will be used to expand the current product portfolio and increase sales channels.
Marvelous Foods is focussed on providing dairy alternatives to Chinese consumers who want to shop consciously. It’s debut product, Yeyo coconut yoghurt, was designed to target a specific demographic of women in developed cities.
Building on solid foundations
Distribution is already in place in more than 90 outlets across China. Foodservice and retail chains are on board, as are partners of a different kind. Marvelous Foods works with fitness brands Maia Active and Lululemon on brand activation projects. Combined, the company sees these elements as an ideal springboard for future launches of plant-based dairy.
“There is enormous potential for plant-based dairy for everyone in China, and we are focusing on one target audience of opinion leaders in order to spearhead the adoption of this new category, and that is millennial women in China,” founder and CEO Christiana Zhu said in a statement.
Coconut yoghurt released, Marvelous Foods is planning to diversify into other areas. “There is a long history of traditional plant-based drinks like soy milk in China, but a lack of plant-based 2.0 dairy alternatives,” co-founder and COO Athena Zhu said.
“Oatly has made a big impact on the plant-based milk category, but plant-based yogurt, ice cream, and similar categories are still pretty much untouched. Yogurt in China is a $17 billion USD market, which presents a huge opportunity for high-quality plant-based products and brands to convert and capture.”
The company will seek to retain its artisanal roots while commercialising healthy plant-based dairy. The new funding comes after the successful launch of Yeyo on the Tmall e-commerce platform. Stockists have increased exponentially from five to 90 in nine months.
“We’re really excited by the products and brand that Marvelous Foods has developed so far,” Nick Cooney, managing partner of repeat investor Lever VC said in a statement. “Given their focus and understanding of the target consumer, we’re confident in their vision and capability to deliver tasty, healthy and innovative products that will have a real impact on the uptake of plant-based foods in China. We are excited to be on the journey with them.”
China’s attitude to alternative dairy
The market for plant-based dairy is growing in China. Just last year, Oatly announced the opening of its first Asian factory. The move came following increased demand for non-soy products. The company acknowledged that a gradual acceptance of alternative proteins in China, based primarily on health concerns, was allowing brands such as itself to make inroads. Reports have predicted a 200 percent surge in demand for alternative protein products in the Asia-Pacific region in the next four years alone.
Suspicion of animal-free products and movements still exists in China. At the end of 2021, responses to a film promoting vegetarianism sparked global conversation. A 45-minute documentary released in mainland China was widely mocked. Production quality, sincerity of participants and messages contained within the film were all derided. Extreme responses included labelling the film as an example of “blind worship of the West”. Regardless, China remains a market that alternative protein companies are keen to break into.
Lead image courtesy of Marvelous Foods.