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Hey Maet, a new plant-based meat startup that just entered the Chinese alternative meat industry, has recently announced significant investment as well as a partnership with Shuangta Food, a pea protein company that supplies Beyond Meat. The food tech says the capital will be used for R&D, building its laboratory and scaling-up manufacturing with the aim of reaching thousands of Chinese restaurants by the end of this year.
Founded this year by Chichi Hong, Hey Maet is a new plant-based meat startup developing a range of meat alternatives targeted to the Chinese market. With its team of food scientists, which include Professor David Drubin of UC Berkeley and a number of experts from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and University of Helsinki in Finland, the Shanghai-based food tech is creating plant-based minced pork, Chinese sausages, minced beef, meatballs for hot pot and beef cubes.
Some products will also be catered to international cuisine, such as Western sausages, chicken nuggets and burger patties. Speaking to Green Queen, a spokesperson for Hey Maet revealed that the company’s plant-based alternatives will be vegan-friendly and made from mainly pea, soy and rice protein. Their first product, a plant-based meat zongzi, debuted online earlier this year for Tuen Ng Festival, widely known as Dragon Boat Festival, which reportedly garnered a positive response from consumers.
In its announcement, Hey Maet said that it has already secured significant investment from Shenzhen Tiantu Capital and UpHonest Capital, a VC founded by Silicon Valley angel investor Wei Guo. Shuangta Food, the largest producer of pea protein and a supplier for Beyond Meat since February 2020, has also backed Hey Maet and will come on board as a strategic partner to supply key raw plant-based ingredients and develop a range of customised products for foodservice.
We use good quality pea, soy and rice protein to make plant-based beef and pork. As a plant-based diet adopter for over 10 years, we have [a] strong passion for making nutritious and healthy products.Chichi Hong, Founder of Hey Maet
With the new capital and collaboration, Hey Maet says that it plans to ramp up R&D, establish its own laboratory in Shanghai and launch its products in thousands of restaurants across China by the end of this year.
While the Chinese plant-based meat industry is still in its nascent stages, there has been a significant uptick in both the number of homegrown startups and investment into the sector in the past few years and especially in the wake of the pandemic. Among some of the domestic startups carving out its place in the Chinese market include Zhenmeat, a Beijing-based food tech with a similar focus on adapting to Chinese cuisine and recently debuted vegan crayfish and pork belly, as well as Starfield, a Shenzhen-based company that has attracted US$10 million to ramp up its aggressive foodservice roll-out strategy.
Hey Maet says it will distinguish itself by taking an “offline” approach, partnering with restaurants and caterers over the course of this year to solidify Chinese consumers’ familiarity with next-gen “2.0” plant-based meats.
In conversation with Green Queen, founder Chichi Hong emphasised that the company, with its health and environmentally-conscious approach, is poised for growth as the country’s plant-based market continues to expand amid the meat crisis as a result of a slew of livestock diseases and the coronavirus pandemic.
“Plant-based meat industry is socially significant and holds great market promise,” said Hong. “We use good quality pea, soy and rice protein to make plant-based beef and pork. As a plant-based diet adopter for over 10 years, we have [a] strong passion for making nutritious and healthy products.”
All images courtesy of Hey Maet.