Do plant-based meat alternatives stand a chance in China, the world's largest meat consumer?

Major food brands and foodtech startups are trying to build their following in a nascent market forecast to grow to nearly $12bn worth by 2023

Chinese consumers are no strangers to mock or faux meat. Usually made from tofu, mushrooms and soy, the culinary option could be traced back to at least a millennia ago in China. But its taste, texture and smell don’t resemble that of real meat, and people eat it mainly for health or religious reasons.

A new kind of plant-based meat substitute has come about and gained traction in recent years, but in the West. Combining biotechnology and the more technologically advanced processing method of extrusion applied toplant protein extracted from soy or pea, alt-meat pioneers like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat produce vegetarian protein alternatives that have come closest to the real thing in many aspects, including taste and texture, more so than the traditional Chinese mock meat. 

The two US food companies now want to sell to China, too, not surprising considering its multi-trillion-dollar food market. China is also the world’s largest meat producer, consumer and importer.

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