China promotes plant-based food with innovation contest
Food innovators will compete in three main categories: pre-packaged foods, main-course recipes, and animal-free ingredients
China has announced the launch of the Plant-Based Food Innovation Contest. The initiative is the first of its kind in Asia and will see university students create animal-free food alternatives across three categories.
Around 100 students from eight universities will take part in the contest, which has a total prize fund of 35,000 RMB (about $4,500).
The contest, a collaboration between food awareness organisation ProVeg International and the Shanghai Society of Food Science, seeks to accelerate the innovation of sustainable and healthy plant-based food in the region.
Sebastian Joy, ProVeg International chief executive, said that an increasing number of people in China are now beginning to realise that animal agriculture and meat consumption have a substantial impact on the environment, climate change, and public health.
“I believe that China’s embrace of innovation will be conducive to making the country a key driver of global progress,” he said.
Food innovation contest
Teams of participating students will compete in three main categories: pre-packaged foods, main-course recipes, and animal-free ingredients. Ten teams will then be selected as finalists to submit a business proposal.
Finalists will be regularly coached and mentored by industry experts from market-leading companies, including China-based manufacturer Bright Dairy, source maker Lee Kum Kee, food giant Danone, and challenger brands Beyond Meat and Oatly. These companies are committed to providing lab facilities and materials for prototype development, and a budget for market research.
“I believe that China’s embrace of innovation will be conducive to making the country a key driver of global progress”Sebastian Joy, ProVeg International
Three prize winners will be announced later in the year. The winner will receive a cash prize of 20,000 RMB (about $2,800), while second and third place will receive 10,000 RMB and 5,000 RMB, respectively.
“Chinese consumers are very health-conscious,” said Shirley Lu, executive director of ProVeg East Asia. “According to a recent Mintel survey, about 70% of consumers are interested in reducing their meat consumption. Food companies would be wise to take advantage of this trend.”
Among the participating universities are Shanghai Jiaotong University, Shanghai Ocean University, and East China University of Science and Technology.
Plant-based in China
The contest has been launched at a time when the plant-based meat market in China is growing steadily, now at a faster rate than the growth in GDP.
In 2018, the domestic plant-based meat industry was worth approximately 6.1 billion RMB (around $860 million), an annual increase of 14.2%, while China’s GDP growth reached its lowest level since 1990 at 6.6%, according to ProVeg data.
The uptake of animal-free food in China is growing slowly. As the country recovers from the coronavirus outbreak and reopens cafes and restaurants, more plant-based alternatives to animal products are on menus.
KFC is trialling plant-based fried chicken in Shanghai and the southern cities of Guangzhou and Shenzhen, and Starbucks now sells plant-based Beyond Meat products in 3,330 of its China outlets.
ProVeg International is a food awareness organisation working across four continents, with ongoing plans for future expansion.