The next frontier for the plant-based market looks like it is going to be China. The country has a huge potential market, consumes an awful lot of meat yet at the same time has a population aware that the Covid19 pandemic may well have emanated from animals raised to be eaten.
The big names in western alt meat and dairy have been eyeing the market for years. In 2016 state-owned investment firm China Resources bought a 30% stake in Oatly. Meanwhile Beyond Meat is building two production facilities in the country.
Now HERO, a Shanghai-based alternative protein company, largely staffed by ex-employee of big players in the US alt meat world like Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, Gardein, Lightlife and Morningstar, is targeting the country for its plant-based beef and chicken products.
The company has announced an $850,000 pre-seed round with the cash coming from commodities and co-manufacturing company, Cremer, the Lever China Fund and smaller food-focused investors.
HERO is making its plant-based meat through the use of “high moisture extrusion technology,” which reproduces the juiciness and texture of meat. HERO says that although the technique is common in the West, it has not been used by Chinese brands. The company adds though that it is making food tailored to the Chinese palate which gives it an advantage over its more global-oriented rivals.
“Plant-based meat is a rising and unstoppable trend in China. HERO Protein aims to bring together the advanced food technology used by top international players such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods and the domestic know-how to curate delicious products specifically catered to the Chinese palate, at prices affordable for a broader range of Chinese consumers. We are very pleased to receive support from investors and partners who share our mission,” said HERO Protein CEO Edward Weng.