Cargill will begin offering its plant-based meat alternatives directly to consumers in China next month, after trialling the products with enterprise customers in the country.
PlantEver is the name under which the US agribusiness giant’s fake meat will be marketed to shoppers. PlantEver products will be available to buy both in brick-and-mortar stores and via online retailers from the end of June.
The unveiling of Cargill’s consumer-facing brand for its meatless protein offering follows a limited trial run in collaboration with restaurant operator Yum China last week.
The partnership saw fried chicken chain KFC selling meat-free ‘chicken’ nuggets made from Cargill’s pea, soy, and wheat-derived protein at several of its outlets in Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Shenzhen.
The US company claimed the three-day trial period was a success, with the nuggets selling out at participating locations.
In addition to launching PlantEver for Chinese consumers, Cargill said it plans to introduce more products for the food service sector.
When the company first revealed its entry into the plant-based ‘meat’ segment in February, it positioned itself as a provider of “private-label […] patties and ground” meat replacements that retailers could market under their own brands.
“Our customers in China can count on a partner with the supply chain, scale, and formulation capabilities to deliver the solutions they need,” said Jackson Chan, managing director of Cargill Protein China, in a statement.
Cargill is competing with plant-based specialists Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods in the race to dominate Asia’s nascent market for next-generation meat alternatives.
Beyond Meat entered into a partnership with Starbucks last month, under which the coffee chain will sell food items containing the NASDAQ-listed company’s plant-based proteins at stores across China. Impossible Foods received $500 million in a March funding round from big-ticket Asian investors including Mirae Asset and Temasek, with a view to expanding its presence in the region.
Local brands like Starfield and Omnipork are also getting in on the act.
Some advocates of plant-based protein have claimed that supply chain disruptions and health concerns linked to Covid-19 are encouraging consumers in China and elsewhere to adjust their diets for a lower meat content. Market research consultancy Euromonitor recently forecast that China’s market for ‘meat-free’ food – including plant-based meat imitations – would be worth $12 billion by 2023, increasing from $10 billion in 2018.
However, recent research from Food Industry Asia and AI Palette [Disclosure: AI Palette has received investment from AFN‘s parent company, AgFunder] found that plant-based proteins “didn’t benefit” from increased consumer interest in China amid Covid-19 – indicating that businesses like Cargill offering ‘fake meat’ may need to do more brand-building in the country.
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