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Beyond Meat opens JD store, as Chinese remain wary of meat substitutes

Beyond Meat has launched an online store in China on e-commerce platform JD, as the plant-based meat maker aims to boost sales in the world’s biggest meat market, where consumer interest in meat alternatives is low.

US-based Beyond Meat said the JD store will initially help expand the availability of its products in four major cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, and eventually in 300 cities across China.

Its products are currently mainly available in China through its partnerships with Starbucks Corp, Yum China Holdings and Alibaba Group’s Freshippo markets.

But expanding into the retail segment by selling on JD will help it reach a wider audience in the country, which is increasingly purchasing fresh food online.

Online sales in China of fresh food, into which category Beyond Meat’s products fall, are expected to top US$46.4 billion this year, an increase of 18 per cent from last year, according to consultancy iiMedia Research.

Beyond Meat’s direct retail foray follows a similar move by Nestle in December, which launched a range of plant-based burgers, sausages, nuggets, and dishes suited to Chinese cooking.

The push by global firms comes even as consumers in China are not exactly devouring plant-based meat.

“Currently it is a solo dance by the manufacturers, the consumers are not joining the tango,” said Zhu Danpeng, an independent food industry analyst.

A recent poll on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media platform, found only 14 per cent of 400 participants were willing to try plant-based meat.

Chinese consumers are deterred by concerns over food safety as well as taste, said Zhu.

Beyond Meat, which has set up its first manufacturing plant outside of the US in the eastern Chinese city of Jiaxing, near Shanghai, declined to comment on its sales in the market so far.

A 454gm twin pack of plant-based beef will be sold at $32.50 on the company’s JD store. By comparison, 1kg of good quality domestic beef costs about $21.60 on JD’s fresh food platform.

Beyond Meat is also adding Beyond Pork to its offering on JD, which has been created for the pork-loving Chinese market.

It will also sell ingredients that are used in the cooking of local dishes such as stir-fry, dumplings, mapo tofu, zhajiang noodles and lion’s head meatballs to appeal to Chinese consumers.

  • Reporting by Sophie Yu and Dominique Patton in Beijing; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman, of Reuters.

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