Plant-based meat heats up in China

Jiong-Jiong Yu
Senior Retail Analyst

Date : 08 July 2020

Beyond Meat has teamed up with Freshippo to launch its products in the Alibaba Group-owned New Retail supermarket.

A milestone for the brand

Los Angeles-based Beyond Meat has launched its flagship Beyond Burger – a plant-based meat burger designed to replicate the flavor and texture of a hamburger patty – in 50 Freshippo stores in Shanghai. The brand will later roll out the product more broadly, starting with select locations in Beijing and Hangzhou in September.

This marks Beyond Meat’s first venture into mainland China’s supermarkets since entering the market in April. Earlier this year, Beyond Meat announced launches with Starbucks and Yum China, the local owner of some of the country’s most popular fast-food restaurants.

We know that retail will be a critical part of our success in China, and we’re pleased to mark this early milestone within a few months of our market entry,” said Ethan Brown, founder and CEO of Beyond Meat.

Freshippo offering a seamless platform to reach consumers

Zhao Jiayu, senior director and head of merchandising at Freshippo, said Freshippo would offer the brand a seamless, online-to-offline platform to reach its young and affluent consumer base.

Beyond Meat and Freshippo share a vision of bringing innovative shopping experiences and products to our customers,” said Zhao. “Freshippo’s New Retail technology will enable plant-based meat to grow in China by meeting the modern Chinese consumer’s expectations whether they are shopping online or offline.”

China as a potential plant-based market ready to take off

China is the world’s largest consumer of meat. However, plant-based food starts to gain more mainstream recent years.

China, with its appetite for all things new and trendy, is a potential market for plant-based products to take off. It is estimated that China’s “free from meat” market, including plant-based meat substitutes, would be worth nearly US$12 bn by 2023, up from just under US$10 bn in 2018.

Snapshot of Freshippo

  • What is Freshippo? Alibaba’s offline grocery chain, also known as Hema in China
  • History and store network: The first store was opened in 2016 based on omnichannel concept driven by technology. The chain now has 207 stores in over 20 cities
  • What is special about Freshippo? Freshippo offers mobile-first shopping experience, including 30-minute online-delivery, unmanned checkout, mobile-scanned product details and fulfillment conveyor belts
  • What role does it play in Alibaba’s strategy? It is an example of Alibaba’s New Retail to date and serves as a testbed for Alibaba’s O2O (online-to-offline) innovations. The technologies have been used by other retail partners, including RT-Mart (owned by Sun Art Group) and Starbucks
  • Product range and channel: 40% of Freshippo’s products are imported from overseas. 60% of Freshippo’s gross merchandise volume comes from online purchases

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