Plant-based alternative meats for Chinese food – dim sum, hotpot, mooncakes and more – set for launch
· Created to be the ‘Chinese version of Impossible Foods’, Zhenmeat offers plant- and fungus-based protein products tailored for Chinese cuisine
· Founder Vince Lu says there is a big gap in China’s plant-based meat market as producers target vegetarians, not the general public who consume meat
Elaine Yau, South China Morning Post (China)
4 Sep, 2019
Lean, muscular and sharply dressed, Beijing-based entrepreneur Vince Lu Zhongming has come a long way from the overweight and aimless university student he was a few years ago.
While studying materials science in the US at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Lu struggled with what to do with his life. He was eating a lot of processed meat and gained 20 kilograms (44 pounds) in a semester, leaving him unhappy with his self-image.
A near-death experience sprang him from his funk: he lost control of his car while driving in freezing temperatures in Illinois and it crashed.
“It was the worst accident I have ever experienced,” Lu says. “I was rescued with no injuries, but was told I had cheated death. Since then, I have been filled with gratitude. I want to value life and give back to society.”
The crash prompted him to get back into shape, revert to a healthier diet and become a regular gym goer. He studied protein properties to learn how to better fuel his workouts. After graduating he set up a start-up called Fuchouzhe, which makes protein bars to boost nutrition and sports performance.
Based on Fuchouzhe’s success, he went further. He launched a plant-based meat start-up – Zhenmeat – with the goal of developing it into a Chinese version of US-based Impossible Foods.
With African swine fever prompting widespread pig culls and rising calls for reduced meat consumption in China, overseas substitute meat producers are salivating over the huge China market.
According to a report by The Good Food Institute released in May, the market size of China’s domestic plant-based meat industry in 2018 was about 6.1 billion yuan (US$850 million), 14.3 per cent higher than the previous year. The US market size that year was US$684 million, up 23 per cent over 2017.
Although less than 10 per cent of Chinese participants surveyed as part of the report identified as vegan, vegetarian or pescatarian (fish but not meat eaters), 86.7 per cent had consumed plant-based meat products.
US plant-based meat firm Beyond Meat plans to start distributing in China in the second half of this year. Also planning a mainland China launch later this year is Hong Kong-based Right Treat, which developed pork alternative Omnipork
from peas, soy and mushroom proteins. After entering the Hong Kong market last year, US-based Impossible Foods plans to launch its products in mainland China within the next two years.
Lu’s Beijing-based start-up Zhenmeat is stealing a march on these overseas rivals, rolling out its products this month.
“Running Fuchouzhe allows me to understand protein’s nutritional properties and supply chains. China’s breakneck economic growth has led to a big demand for quality protein,” he says.
Ahead of the launch tomorrow (September 5), Lu has been touring China to promote Zhenmeat’s products, which include plant-based sausage and steak, and faux meat mooncakes and meatballs.
In an April talk...