China is the biggest meat consumer in the world with 86.5 million tonnes eaten in 2018. Although Chinese cuisine is composed of many vegetables, they are most of the time mixed with pork (more than 55 Million tonnes were consumed in 2018!!) or chicken. However, the vegetarian market is surely gaining ground in the middle kingdoms and is expected to be worth US$12 billion by 2023.
Overview of the Vegetarian market
There are several factors accelarting the growth of the vegetarian marketing in China:
- With more awareness of their environment and the animal cause, many Chinese have made the choice to become vegetarians or vegans.
- Food safety concerns and health.
- Government incentive to reduce meet consumption
Traditionally, meat was a delicacy reserved for special events and dates. Familly income raise has changed and more accessibility has turned meat into a staple at every meal, from your breakfast baozi to your dinner beef noodles. Meat is no longer special but is deeply ingrained into Chinese food habits. However, we are starting to see some changes with the entry on the market of big plant-based meat players.
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In Chinese 1st its cities, more and more vegetarian or “healthy” restaurants with veggie options have opened. Actually, franchises such as Starbuck has started selling vegetarian dish as well as serving vegetal milk (Oalty) which is a sign that meatless dish consumption is mainstream (and “trendy”) again. (China already has over 50 million vegetarians, who offer an immediate consumer base that doesn’t need to be convinced to experiment with meat alternatives.). It is worth noting that if peoples are reducing their meat consumption, they are turning to meet imitation options.
The vegan market in China is on the rise.
Across the world, the vegan movement is led by young people, especially teens and millennials who seem to be more invested in defending and spreading awareness about this cause, and it appears China is no exception to this.
According to an article by South China Morning Post, the Chinese vegan market is predicted to experience a growth of 17% in the upcoming years. This is already considered to be the fastest international growth in this time period and it suggests that a huge shift in consumer habits in Asia will occur.
In the future, Asia is predicted to be a major player in the global veganism movement and as such, international plant-based companies have recently started introducing their products to several locations around Asia.
Hong-Kong seems to be leading the way in terms of veganism in Asia, one of the reasons why is in part due to David Yeung who introduced the Green Monday initiative, Asia’s answer to Meat-free Mondays, and created Green Common, a plant-based supermarket, it has been producing the Future Burger also known in the western world as the Beyond Burger.
Self-Sufficiency and Sustainability
China is home to a consequent part of the world’s population, however, it only has 7% of the world’s plowable land. Plant-based proteins require far less land than meat and dairy and would be a much more efficient way for the Chinese population to get the food that they need.
Who can benefit from the Vegetarian market Growth in China?
Foreign and Locals Organic fruits and vegetables producers
If the awareness of Chinese about the dangers of toxic products used in agriculture remains quite poor and addition, there is still no real “organic” label it is surely growing. Awareness of pesticides and toxic soils is not the sole reason for the rise of organic product demand. Indeed, the country has experienced a few too many food safety scandals, making consumers wearier of what they put on their plates.
As of 2018, the sales of organic products in China was worth more than 60 billion RMB. Another explanation for the rise of organic food is the development of groceries delivery services by Alibaba, Tencent, or Pinduoduo. These groups, rely a lot on consumers’ trust to grow, therefore, hiring quality producers locally and overseas.
Healthy restaurants with vegetarian/vegan options
As mentioned earlier, the vegan market is estimated to be worth 12billion $ by 2023, and represent a huge opportunity for restaurant and franchise in China. The Chinese government is hoping to reduce meat consumption by half by 2030 (environmental reasons and public health). For the last decades, meat consumption was paired with wealth while the vegetarian diet was associated with either poverties or monastic life (best vegan restaurants in China are run by monks).
With the government pushing for less meat consumption, more interest in health and the environment, being vegetarian or vegan is becoming a statement, a lifestyle choice rather than an obligation, giving vegetable dishes some kind of status and growing their popularity in 1st and 2nd tiers Chinese cities. The best sign that the market is healthily growing is the adoption by Fast Food franchises.
Instant dishes and ingredients
Take the example of Carrefour, a French multinational retailer, which has developed its own range of products “Carrefour Veggie”. The products are very varied: soy dumplings, breaded vegetable patties, falafels, wheat nuggets, and so on
Brand collab to offer vegetarian options to their customers. You’ll find this product in franchises, coffee, restaurants. For instance, take the brand Oalty (Oat milk), is everwhere in shanghai, local coffee, internationnal franchise, bakery, ice cream stores….
Brands such as Beyond meat (KFC/ Pizza Hut) collaborate with international franchises but also local giants (Alibaba Fresh Hippo).
How to conquer China’s Vegetarian heart?
China has multiple markets
Although the interest in vegetarianism is growing, its progress is not that quick and does not affect the whole country. The big cities definitely represent an interesting market for this type of product. The inhabitants in big cities have more wealth and are less worried about day-to-day life; allowing them to care more for their health or the environment. Plus, with the news status it acquires and the marketing around it, many of the vegan products are more expensive than “normal” ones.
Find distributors for your vegetarian products
This will not be an easy task but it is not impossible either granted you don’t shy away from proper marketing strategy. Chinese distributors just like consumers do no grant their trust easily and research brands quite a bit in order to evaluate their potential before signing any deals. The positive point tho is that you have quite a bit of choice. You can build a traditional distribution network, supermarket, work with franchises and brands (just like Oatly and beyond meat) or sell directly online through ecommerce.
Offer home delivery
In China, home delivery is highly developed. Everywhere in the streets, you can see the scooters of the deliverymen of “Eleme”, “Meituan” and many others. Takeout is an important part of life, you order your coffee, your groceries, and your diner. It is not that restaurants are dying out, but they exist to offer a different experience. It has become increasingly important to offer flexibility to your client on how they can consume your products. We mentioned earlier that e-commerce opens the door for organic product growth in China, and it can also be said for vegetarian products/dishes.
Work on your E-Reputation
Reputation is important in China, it is actually the number 1 criteria for online purchase. Chinese Customers will trust one brand that has a good image online. Don’t hesitate to put interesting content about your products online. Chinese like to read good comments or recommendations of their friends or family before buying something. Read more.
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