Beyond Meat Is Opening a Major Production Facility in China
Beyond Meat's Chinese production facilities are expected to be fully operational by early 2021. | Yum China

Beyond Meat is making history as the first multinational vegan brand to open a major production facility in China.

The California-based brand signed an agreement to build two production plants around Shanghai earlier this month. It’s known for the Beyond Burger and other meat analogs (the Beyond Meatball was announced on Monday). The brand expects facilities to reach full scale by early next year. They will manufacture plant-based pork (pork is the most-consumed meat in China), beef, and chicken under the Beyond Meat brand.

Ethan Brown, CEO of Beyond Meat, said in a statement: “China is one of the world’s largest markets for animal-based meat products and potentially for plant-based meat.

Beyond Meat made its mainland China debut at more than 3,300 Starbucks locations earlier this year.

Beyond Meat partnered with Yum China, owner of several fast-food chains, including KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell. All three chains introduced new menu items featuring Beyond Meat in June. That same month, the Beyond Burger launched at select Shanghai Freshippo locations, an Alibaba-owned supermarket chain.

Beyond Meat aims to have a global reach; it acquired a new European manufacturing site in the Netherlands this summer.

Investing in the Future

The Chinese plant-based meat market is growing, expected to reach $12 billion by 2023, according to the South China Morning Press. In 2016, the government outlined plans to halve meat consumption in order to reduce the nation’s carbon emissions.

Many Asian plant-based brands have taken root in recent years. OmniFoods, a Hong Kong-based brand known for its plant-based pork, also plans to establish facilities in mainland China.

Startups are attracting funding from investors. Zhenmeat—a Beijing-based brand that targets Chinese palates with plant-based crayfish, pork tenderloin, sausages, and mooncakes—hopes to raise $2 million this year. Like Beyond Meat, pea protein is the primary ingredient in its products. Starfield, a plant-based meat startup based in Shenzhen, recently launched meatballs in Chinese Papa John’s locations. It received an undisclosed investment from impact investor Dao Foods International earlier this year.

Shanghai’s Hey Maet, a newcomer to the space, received an investment from Shenzhen Tiantu Capital and Silicon Valley investor Wei Guo. It also announced a strategic cooperation with Shuangta Food, which supplies pea protein to Beyond Meat.