Starbucks is adding Beyond Meat products to its menus in China in what could prove to be the alternative protein maker’s biggest expansionary move to date. According to CNBC, Starbucks will debut three menu items containing US-based Beyond Meat’s plant-based protein in its Chinese stores this week.
The new meat-free items include lasagna, pesto pasta, and a Vietnamese-style noodle salad.
The launch marks Beyond Meat’s first foray into China, the world’s second-largest market for meat consumption following the US (its products were already available in the Chinese autonomous territory of Hong Kong).
“Today we mark an important milestone [in] advancing our goal of increasing accessibility to plant-based protein globally,” Ethan Brown, Beyond Meat’s founder and CEO, said in a statement.
“I made a commitment that we’re going to be producing in Asia by the end of this year,” he said. “We’ll do that regardless [of] this health epidemic occurring right now. We have to be active in China, regardless of what’s going on.”
The depletion of domestic Chinese pork supplies in the wake of an ongoing African swine fever outbreak beginning in late 2018 presents an unparalleled window of opportunity for Beyond Meat to enter the market, he added.
“I came out of the fuel cell industry. If there had been a disruption to the internal combustion engine manufacturing infrastructure where 25% disappeared overnight, we’d be going bananas trying to leapfrog and put hydrogen or electric drive technology in its place,” he said.
Rival plant-based protein maker Impossible Foods is also pushing for a bigger presence in Asia. Last month it raised $500 million in Series F funding from investors including South Korea’s Mirae Asset, Hong Kong’s Horizons Ventures, and Singapore’s Temasek. The US company said the capital will help it to double-down on its global growth plans.
“We have focused our international expansion primarily in Asia so far, because [it] represents more than 40% of the global demand for animal meat,” an Impossible Foods spokesperson told AFN at the time.
Beyond Meat went public in May last year, raising $240 million from its New York debut.
As of September last year, China was Starbucks’ second largest market in terms of the number of stores it operates, after its home soil of the US. It had 3,521 directly operated stores in China, compared to 8,575 in the US, according to Statista. Japan is its third largest market, with 1,286 stores.
Beyond Meat collaborated with Starbucks earlier this year to launch its meat alternatives in the coffee chain’s stores in Canada.