Beyond Meat, the US plant-based meat maker, said on Tuesday that it is building two new production facilities in East China’s Zhejiang province to make products like plant-based beef, pork and chicken.

The move will help the US firm to optimize product prices, expand production and develop innovative flavors for Chinese consumers, the company said, adding that production is expected to start in early 2021.

Products from the new factory will be rolled out under the Beyond Meat brand, making it the first international plant-based meat brand having its own production facilities in China.

Apart from being a major production and research and development center, China will also be a major consumer of its products, the company said.

Calling the production facilities “the perfect road to long-term success in China”, Micky Pant, senior adviser to Beyond Meat, said the factory has set up a dedicated, cuttingedge production capacity via a wholly-owned subsidiary-Beyond Meat (Jiaxing) Food Co Ltd.

Plant-based meat companies are eyeing huge growth potential in the Chinese market as more consumers are shifting to plant-based diets.

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

Beyond Meat’s two production facilities include one of the world’s largest and technologically advanced plant-based meat factories at the Jiaxing Economic and Technological Development Zone.

The move is in line with the company’s earlier plan to invest more in the Chinese market for improving the accessibility of its products and manufacturing capacity apart from adopting local flavors.

The global plant-based meat market was estimated at $12.1 billion in 2019 and set to reach $27.9 billion by 2025, with an annual growth rate of 15 percent during the forecast period, according to MarketsandMarkets, a research firm.

Beyond Meat teamed up with coffee chain Starbucks in China earlier this year to develop a menu including pasta, lasagna and wraps. It also worked with Yum China Holdings Inc to introduce Beyond Burger at select KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell locations starting June 3. Globally, the firm has been involved with 94,000 retail, restaurant and food service outlets in 75 countries and regions.

Li Chen, deputy director of the food and beverage sector at Mintel, a research firm, said plant-based meat producers from the United States and Europe have strengths in management and production systems but also face challenges while adopting local flavors to suit Chinese palates.

“The topic of plant-based meat and protein alternatives for meat is hot among investors. However, consumers in China are not yet fully ready for the same,” said Li.

She said snacks, rather than meals, made from plant-based meat, would be easier to launch in the local market. Swiss food major Nestle said in May that work on its first production facility in Asia in Tianjin for plant-based products is progressing steadily with production likely to start by the end of the year.

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