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Nestle Wades Into China’s Increasingly Competitive Plant-Based Food Market

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International food and drink giant Nestle launched its plant-based food brand Harvest Gourmet in China this past Wednesday. The brand, which is already available in Australia, plans to offer burgers, sausages, mince, and China-market specific options such as pork belly and braised meatballs.

China’s meat substitute market is booming in 2020, as Covid-19 has driven fears surrounding wild animal meats and imported products, prompting consumers to look for alternatives. This, combined with rising social and environmental concerns about the meat industry, has created a demand for plant-based companies to enter the market.

Harvest Gourmet is just one of many plant-based food brands to launch in China this year — a market with a projected value of 12 billion USD by 2023. In 2020 alone, Beyond Meat’s Beyond Burger entered Alibaba’s Freshippo supermarket stores in Shanghai, while the company also partnered with Yum China to discuss plant-based beef options for KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and more. The same brand also recently announced Beyond Pork, specifically aimed at the Chinese market.

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This is in addition to numerous domestic startups such as Zhenmeat and Starfield that have been making significant strides in the Chinese market this year.

Harvest Gourmet’s products will be produced in Nestle’s Tianjin faux-meat factory. The company plans to first sell the products online via Alibaba’s Tmall marketplace. If all goes well, the meat alternatives will start showing up in the tech giant’s Freshippo supermarket chain by the end of the month. 

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Whether or not Harvest Gourmet and other plant-based alternates will succeed in China is still unclear. Many in China remain unwilling to try plant-based meats, and many that have tried don’t seem to like them. Still, China actually has a long history of plant-based imitation meats, and the increasing availability of plant-based options in a country known for its meat-heavy fair is promising to say the least.

Lakshmi Iyengar
    Lakshmi Iyengar is a Yenching Scholar studying health, economics, and modern China. Before moving to Beijing, she majored in Biomedical Engineering at Yale. Follow her on twitter @vlakshmiiyengar for insights on China and life