Once upon a time, picking up a meat-free meal from a convenience store in China meant having to make do with a bag of potato chips and a can of soda. Today, more than 2,300 Lawson convenience stores in Shanghai and Zhejiang, Jiangsu, and Anhui provinces carry lunch boxes by American plant-based meat company Beyond Meat.
A collaboration between the Japanese convenience store chain and the California-based company led to the introduction of two new dishes on May 16.
The first, a mixed rice bowl priced at 17.9 RMB (2.65 USD), includes Beyond Beef and a rainbow assortment of seven vegetables.
Prefer noodles over rice? Then get the 14.9 RMB vegan spaghetti flavored with eggplant and Beyond Pork, a plant-based protein explicitly created for the Chinese market.
This marks Beyond Meat’s first partnership with a convenience store chain in China, and one could argue the new products can be seen as a sign of the Chinese market’s growing acceptance of plant-based meat.
Founded in Japan, Lawson opened its first Chinese branch in Shanghai in 1996. The Tokyo-based retailer was one of the first international convenience store chains to be introduced in China and remains one of the country’s largest. In August 2021, Lawson had more than 2,000 outlets in Shanghai alone.
With a local manufacturing facility in the Jiaxing Economic and Technological Development Zone, Beyond Meat is available to home cooks in China by way of grocery stores and ecommerce platforms.
Furthermore, the vegan protein can be found at casual chains like KFC and Starbucks, as well as high-end restaurants.
Starbucks Reserve Roastery located at Taikoo Hui Mall in Shanghai. Image via Depositphotos
The wave of interest in plant-based meat among Chinese consumers has also seen the birth of homegrown brands like Shanghai-based Zrou. A worthy challenger to Western companies, Zrou is particularly well-versed in creating meat-free versions of traditional Chinese dishes, as founder and CEO Frank Yao tells RADII in China From All Angles.
Whether these meatless alternatives can convince China to adopt a more flexitarian diet remains to be seen, but their introduction into the mainstream marks a positive trend for the planet.
Unless otherwise specified, all images via Beyond Meat/Weibo
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