China’s fake meat trend is on the rise, researchers say
People making tofu the traditional way at a workshop on 22th October, 2017 in Guizhou, China.
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As supplies dwindle, more meat imports may be needed to meet consumer demand, the Fitch report stated. Alternatively, “new options would need to be investigated and encouraged” in order to increase the supply of meat, the report said.
Mock meat is one option.
In 2018, China’s plant-based meat industry was worth $910 million — up 14.2% from a year earlier, according to a report by U.S.-based Good Food Institute. In comparison, the U.S. market stood at $684 million that year — increasing by 23% year-on-year, the non-profit organization said.
The fake meat trend can be viewed as the next step in this tradition as opposed to a completely new development.
African swine fever, in particular, will be “positive” for the Chinese alternative meat industry, said Simon Powell, a researcher at U.S. investment bank Jefferies.
The deadly disease might have led to a 20 million ton drop in China’s pork market, according to Powell. On this decrease, consumers could turn to mock meat as an alternative.
“I think there could be tremendous pull through for alternative protein, alternative meat here,” he told CNBC last Wednesday.
Environment, health and tradition
Another factor behind the mock meat trend is Chinese cuisine, Fitch Solutions said in their report. That’s because plant-based mock meats, made of tofu or wheat-based seitan, are already traditionally used in Chinese dishes.
In fact, some say that the Chinese began eating alternative meat as early as the Tang Dynasty, more than a thousand years ago.
“The fake meat trend can be viewed as the next step in this tradition as opposed to a completely new development,” the report said.
A Chinese worker uses a traditional technique to make tofu at his family factory on February 6, 2005 in China.
Cancan Chu | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Environmental, ethical, and health concerns may also be behind the growing demand for fake meat in China, the Fitch report noted.
Chinese millennials and flexitarians — or people who reduce their meat intake for health or environmental reasons — could lead the way for alternative meat, Powell told CNBC.
Despite this trend, it could be a while before mock meat consumption in China becomes widespread.
“One would never assume that it would be on a mass scale,” Powell said, adding that pork, in particular, is important to the Chinese everyday diet and national psyche.
Chinese demand for meat has historically been high. In 2018, the country accounted for approximately 46% of the total world’s pork consumption, according to OECD data.