In Focus
MENU INNOVATIONS | Staff Reporter, Hong Kong

In meat-hungry Hong Kong, vegan burgers find a niche

Find out how California-based vegan brand Beyond Meat is establishing a foothold in the region.

Beyond Meat’s vegan Beyond Burger, which is made entirely from plant-based meat but looks, tastes, and feels exactly like meat, reported impressive growth in Hong Kong since its debut there last year.

The company, which is headquartered in El Segundo, California, announced that recent sales of its Beyond Meat products in Hong Kong have quadrupled since their debut last April, mostly on the back of a weekly meatless meals campaign dubbed Green Monday.

David Yeung, the founder of vegetarian grocery and café chain Green Common, said that Beyond Meat’s products, including the Beyond Burger and Beyond Chicken strips, are attracting a wide customer base despite the majority of them being meat-eaters.

“The majority of our patrons are meat-eaters,” David Yeung, who runs the Green Monday campaign and its flagship markets, Green Common, told the media.

“The novelty, taste and clear benefits are the main reason for trying plant-based meat.”

The news comes as a surprise as it follows the expansion of popular Western burger chains like Shake Shack and Five Guys offering real meat to the region, suggesting the changing palates of the Hong Kong market. Shake Shack, which offers burgers, chicken sandwiches, fries, and frozen custard, is expected to open 14 restaurants in Hong Kong and Macau over the next decade, in addition to 25 across Shanghai and East China.

Five Guys, meanwhile, is fitting out its first Hong Kong outlet on Johnston Road, next to The Pawn and below the Bo Innovation restaurant.

Beyond Meat announced its plans to bring its signature plant-based burgers to six continents this year. The company aims to positively impact human health, the environment and animal welfare by replacing the protein at the center of the plate with plant-based meat by working with leading distribution and food service partners globally to roll out The Beyond Burger worldwide.

The company has found extensive success in the U.S. market, doubling sales in 2017 and increasing distribution of its portfolio to more than 27,000 grocery stores and restaurants.

“Reflecting rapid demand growth in the United States and sustained interest from international markets, we’ve taken steps to significantly increase our production capacity,” Beyond Meat Founder & CEO Ethan Brown had said.

“These additions make it possible for us to support international launches, building upon the successful 2017 introduction of the Beyond Burger in Hong Kong.”

Beyond Meat has since partnered with a select group of distributors to enter over 50 countries including Germany and the rest of Europe, Canada, Australia, Mexico, Chile, Israel, UAE, Korea, Taiwan and South Africa.

Hot on the heels of Beyond Meat is rival company Impossible Foods, which also offer vegan meat-mimicking burgers. Impossible Foods recently launched in Hong Kong to much success, hinting that the vegan trend may be making its way several miles north to the much bigger Chinese market.

Even as China reportedly becomes an increasingly meat-hungry market, the country has set targets to reduce meat consumption over the next several decades. The success of meat alternative products in Hong Kong can catch the attention of major food distributors and businesses, opening up the largest market in the world to meat-free movement.

(Photo credit: Green Common)

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