“Artificial meat” marching into China: hot money is surging, the market is cold

On October 6, the National Day holiday came to an end. That morning, a Hema Xiansheng store in Xuhui District, Shanghai was crowded with people, but the freezer with Beyond Meat burgers and patties was seldom. This burger patty does not contain any meat ingredients, and is mainly made of vegetable protein (pea protein, rice protein, mung bean protein), pressed rapeseed oil, refined coconut oil, potato starch, etc. A hamburger cake weighs 227 grams and sells for as much as 59.9 yuan. The imported sirloin block, which is placed in the same freezer, weighs 500 grams, and costs only 39.9 yuan.

"Artificial meat" marching into China: hot money is surging, the market is cold 1

Beyond Meat (BYND.NASDAQ) is headquartered in the United States and landed on NASDAQ in May 2019. This company with the halo of “the first share of artificial meat” is highly praised by the capital market, and its stock price has repeatedly hit new highs.

Beyond Meat is ambitious and announced its entry into the Chinese market on July 1 this year. A few days later, Beyond Meat’s burger patties entered 50 Hema Xiansheng stores in Shanghai and began to sell.

However, the market did not buy it, and the hot sale period of Beyond Meat never came. “Customers who come to buy’artificial meat’ hamburger cakes are mostly early adopters. Our store can only sell one or two per day.” A staff member of the aforementioned Hema Xiansheng store told Times Weekly.

This did not stop Beyond Meat’s expansion in China. On September 8, Beyond Meat announced that it has signed an agreement with Zhejiang Jiaxing Economic and Technological Development Zone (hereinafter referred to as “Jiaxing Economic Development Zone”), and will pass a wholly-owned subsidiary, Jiaxing (Jiaxing) Food Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as “Different Food”) ) To build two factories in Jiaxing to produce plant meat products. On October 12, Beyond Meat once again increased its size, announcing that it would deepen its cooperation with KFC China and launch “artificial meat” foods in 210 KFC stores for a limited time for three weeks.

China is the world’s largest meat consumer and is becoming an important battlefield for “artificial meat” companies. “Artificial meat” companies represented by Beyond Meat have accelerated their expansion in the Chinese market. The capital boom comes first. After Beyond Meat went public, the “artificial meat concept stocks” spawned by A-shares have been repeatedly speculated by funds, and their stock prices have risen continuously.

“Artificial meat” faces many constraints such as price, technology, and low consumer acceptance, and its market prospects in China are full of variables.

“If (consumers) just have a taste and a try, the market will be unsustainable.” Liu Jishan, chairman of the soybean protein manufacturer Shandong Wonderful Biotechnology Co., Ltd., was still worried about the trend of “artificial meat” in an interview with a Times Weekly reporter. Perhaps it is only a short-lived, difficult to become the mainstream of the market.

On the other hand, whether “artificial meat” can really be called “meat” is still full of controversy.

“At present, all the’artificial meats’ that are popular in the market are only’vegetarian’. They are just named’meat’, not the real’vegetarian meat’ that the common people need.” September 25, Wu Qi, a well-known macromolecular physicist, academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and director of the Food Science and Processing Research Center of Shenzhen University, pointed out in an exclusive interview with a reporter from Times Weekly that the difference between vegetarian and vegetarian meat is mainly reflected in the taste, “flavored, not chewy. Yes, strictly speaking, they are all vegetarian. Housewives can buy them home, fried pork, fried pork slices, braised and stewed, they are vegetarian.”

Come to China to build a factory

11-year-old Beyond Meat sells products including burgers, sausages, ground beef and minced meat made of “artificial meat”. Due to the new crown pneumonia epidemic, the meat supply chain in the United States was affected. Beyond Meat increased its promotion efforts to seize the opportunity to seize the market.

On September 29, Beyond Meat announced that it would expand its cooperation with Wal-Mart in the US market from the original 800 stores to 2,400 stores. As of June 27, 2020, Beyond Meat provides a variety of plant-based meat products through approximately 112,000 retail and catering outlets in 85 countries around the world.

In China, with the factory landing in Jiaxing, Beyond Meat will become the first multinational “artificial meat” company to locate its main production facilities in China.

According to industry and commerce data, Bianyang Food was established on April 28, 2020, with a registered capital of US$1 million. Beyond Meat said it will introduce its main production facilities to China, and of the two factories it will establish, one of them will become one of the world’s largest and technologically advanced plant-based meat products factories.

Workers from the Jiaxing Economic Development Zone revealed to the Times Weekly that the two factories were located in Majiabang Health Food Town, and the two parties have completed the signing of the project.

Beyond Meat has long plans for the Chinese market. On January 19, Beyond Meat has joined the China Plant Food Industry Alliance; three months later, Beyond Meat’s plant meat series products were launched in most Starbucks stores in China.

Coincidentally, the “artificial meat” giant Impossible Foods, which was invested by Li Ka-shing, has also entered the Chinese Hong Kong market. Impossible Foods founder and CEO Patrick Brown (Patrick Brown) revealed in a written reply to the Times reporter that the company currently has 200 sales points in Hong Kong, covering Starbucks, Fini’s, Franks Italian American and URBAN. Offline channels.

“We are in the early stages of expanding the Chinese mainland market, and there is currently no news to announce. Once we obtain regulatory approval, we will enter as soon as possible. Because for us, this is a very important market.” Brown admitted.

BeyondMeat has set off a wave of artificial meat in the United States

Beyond Meat has set off a wave of artificial meat in the United States

Green Monday Holdings (hereinafter referred to as “Green Monday”), a local plant-based scientific research food company in Hong Kong, China, has also confirmed that it will build a production line in Guangdong. Yang Dawei, founder and chief executive of Green Monday, said in a written reply to the Times Weekly reporter that Green Monday will set up a new production line in Guangdong and hope to give full play to the geographical advantages of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.

At present, Green Monday’s partners and factory locations have been basically determined, and it is expected that production will begin in the first half of 2021. At that time, the plant will mainly meet the needs of the Chinese domestic market. The existing Thai plant will supply Southeast Asia and other overseas regions. It is expected that the production capacity of the Chinese plant will exceed that of the Thai plant after full production.

Founded in 2012, Green Monday was one of the first artificial meat companies to enter the Chinese mainland market. At the end of November 2019, the “OmniPork New Meat” and other products produced by it have been launched on Tmall International. In August this year, “OmniPork New Diet Meat” and “OmniPork New Diet Meat Healthy Fast Food Series” entered offline retail channels, with approximately 200 sales points.

Hot money crazy

Behind the continued popularity of the topic of “artificial meat” is the enthusiastic pursuit of capital. After Beyond Meat went public, the concept of “artificial meat” has been crazy from the primary market to the secondary market, and related concept stocks have continued to rise.

In the primary market, Impossible Foods received US$500 million in Series F financing in March of this year, and another US$200 million in Series G financing in August. Since its establishment in 2011, the company’s total financing has reached 1.5 billion US dollars. On September 22, Green Monday announced the completion of a financing of up to 70 million U.S. dollars, setting the largest single financing for the plant-based food industry in Asia.

In Mainland China, start-ups such as the plant-based meat brand STARFIELD and Zhenrou are also favored by capital.

At the beginning of this year, Zhenrou accepted a seed round + financing from BIV (Big Idea Ventures), which focuses on alternative protein in New York. In March, Weekly Zero announced the completion of a series A financing of tens of millions of dollars, becoming the “artificial meat” startup with the highest amount of domestic financing.

In addition, A-share meat companies are also grasping the trend of “artificial meat” and began to accelerate their deployment in this field.

On April 26, Shuanghui Development (000895.SZ) teamed up with Ali to launch a strategic new product category “Vegetarian World” on Tmall with the name “Pac-Man” and launched a series of products such as shredded protein meat and protein ham sausage. , Test the water plant flesh field.

On May 8, Shuanghui Development announced that it would acquire part of the equity of 6 companies held by Rotex at a price of 730 million yuan. Among them, DuPont Protein and DuPont Foods focus on the field of plant protein. Shuanghui’s acquisition was interpreted by the industry as a signal to officially enter the “artificial meat” track.

Agricultural product company Xuerong Biology (300511.SZ) also announced on July 8 that it intends to invest 14 million yuan in its own funds in the “artificial meat” company Beijing Weishida Technology Co., Ltd., and cooperate with Lanhai Asset Management (Hainan) Co., Ltd. The company, Weishida and its original shareholders signed the Capital Increase Agreement.

After the capital boom, investors began to bet cautiously.

As an early investor in Impossible Foods, Zhang Jiayu, investment director of Kangdi Grain Company (Asia), felt the sudden warming of the industry. “After Beyond Meat went public last year, this industry began to receive a lot of attention, and a large amount of capital chased in, which quickly pulled the valuation of the entire industry to a very high state.” Zhang Jiayu is worried that there may be overheating in the short term. “We will be more patient. .”

Zhang Jiayu believes that the advantage of being so hot now is that more talents and funds will come in after a lot of attention, bringing more perspectives and resources, which will help promote the progress of the entire industry.

“In the long run, this is a good track. Although I don’t want to pour cold water, the industry will have ups and downs, and there will be more challenges.” Zhang Jiayu analyzed to the Times Weekly reporter and pointed out that the “artificial meat” industry is not very good. Like the mobile Internet industry, a pattern of two or three companies occupying the market will quickly form in the short term.

“This is a long-term track. From the development stage, it is still only at the 1.0 stage. There will be a process of removing the rough and precise. In this process, many startups will be eliminated, and many companies will be able to run. Come out.” Zhang Jiayu told the Times Weekly reporter.

In the secondary market, many stocks such as Fengle Seed Industry, Shuangta Food (002481.SZ), Haixin Food (002702.SZ), Harbin Gaoke (600095.SH), and VV shares have been attacked and speculated by hot money. Wind up.

“We mostly hope to use this concept to promote it. At present, only a few listed snacks or catering companies are serious about doing this in the secondary market, and even go much faster than some upstream raw material companies. Compared with four or five years ago Everyone is already willing to accept this concept, whether it is hype or other, it is an improvement for this industry.” On September 29, the Secretary-General of China Plant Food Industry Alliance Xue Yan said bluntly in an interview with Times Weekly.

In Xue Yan’s eyes, agricultural food requires actual production and consumption. From an industrial perspective, the entire industry has fewer false fires. However, compared with foreign companies spending a lot of money, time and talents on scientific research and innovation, domestic companies still have a big gap in investment. “But slowly we see that this ratio is constantly increasing, and it is already on the track of healthy development.” Xue Yan said.

Chen Su, chairman of Shenzhen Qishan Food Co., Ltd., pointed out in an interview with Times reporter that after Beyond Meat went public, the concept of “artificial meat” has been smashed in the secondary market. In the primary equity investment market, almost mainstream VC institutions are looking at this business, “but not many really start.” Although the plant meat market has great potential, it is still in the early stages of growth. “Everyone is still trying. If you have the will, invest some money in the Angel round or A round to occupy the track.” Chen Su analyzed.

The “Chinese Path” of Artificial Meat

Chinese artificial meat companies are still in their infancy.

Tianfeng Securities Research Report stated that traditional domestic vegetarian meat has a long history, but most of them do not belong to the category of “artificial meat”. Since the listing of Beyond Meat in 2019, traditional vegetarian companies have entered a transition period and launched “artificial meat” products, such as Shenzhen Qishan Food, Jiangsu Hongchang Food and Ningbo Sulian Food, all of which are relatively small. At the same time, start-ups such as Weekly Zero and Zhenrou have seized the track through catering and retail models respectively.

“The term’artificial meat’ was originally proposed from the perspective of finance and technology. We do not agree with this concept when we do food and agriculture, but it is easier for consumers to understand it quickly.” Xue Yan said, conceptually In other words, “artificial meat” can be divided into plant meat and cell culture meat.

Among them, plant meat has mature manufacturing technology in the current market, and its raw material is mainly drawn silk protein, which pursues the taste, appearance and texture of animal meat infinitely close. And culturing meat refers to extracting cells from animals and simulating the environment of cell growth to make it grow into meat naturally in a laboratory environment. It is still in the laboratory research stage, and mass production cannot be achieved due to high costs.

“We have been vegetarian for 27 years, and we have been making plant-based meat a few years ago. At that time, there was no definition of’artificial meat’ in the market.” Chen Su said that making plant-based meat is not new for Qishan, and it is only aimed at targeted customers Has changed. The first category is for the C-end crowd of e-commerce platforms to try new things, and the second category is the B-end customers that have emerged in large numbers in the past two years. “This part is not large, and everyone is trying.”

Soy protein is still the main ingredient of artificial meat

Bean protein is still the main ingredient of artificial meat

The current scale of domestic “artificial meat” companies can be seen from the upstream raw materials. Take Henan Baichuan Food Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as “Henan Baichuan”), which specializes in drawing protein, as an example. The company has a sales volume of 40,000 tons a year, and its products are mainly supplied to 5 major sectors. According to the situation this year, the first is the additives for meat products, which are added to sausages, dumplings, and meatballs. This is the market cultivated by Henan Baichuan in the initial stage, accounting for about 40% of sales; the second is the raw materials for snack foods. It accounts for 35% of sales; the third is for catering, where vegetable protein is made into shredded pork slices, which are soy products and can be directly fried; the fourth is vegetarian food, which together account for more than 20%; fifth is Plant meat accounts for less than 5%.

“I know how much plant meat companies can buy me, and I know their general development. At present, they are basically small start-up companies, which are in the stage of small batch and under-scale, and have not yet formed a large amount of circulation.” Jiang Xuhai, general manager of Henan Baichuan, told Times Weekly reporter.

In Wu Qi’s view, the so-called “artificial meat” currently on the market does not need to use the modifier “artificial”. Use plant protein instead of animal protein. If you can’t make the taste of animal meat, it is “vegetarian”, even if it is “vegetarian 5.0”, it is still vegetarian.

The Food Science and Processing Research Center of Shenzhen University, founded by Wu Qi, was established in 2017. The main direction of the center is the separation, refining and processing of plant protein, starch and cellulose. The long-term goal is to replace animal protein with plant protein. Nutritional problems such as protein intake among the disadvantaged and poor in China and even the world.

At present, Wu Qi and his team are researching and developing how to replace animal protein with plant protein based on the principle of physical processing of macromolecules, solving the taste problem of plant protein instead of animal protein, and developing real vegetarian meat. Their goal is to make a complete vegetarian diet, that is, “can be placed on the shelf in blocks, and customers can buy it home and process them in the way they like”, rather than the plant-based burger meat or plant-based dumplings currently on the market. Category of products.

Chinese researchers have also made breakthroughs in the field of meat cultivation. On November 18, 2019, Professor Zhou Guanghong from the National Meat Quality and Safety Control Engineering Technology Research Center of Nanjing Agricultural University led the team to use the sixth generation of pig muscle stem cells to culture for 20 days to produce 5 grams of cultured meat. This is the first cell culture meat product in China. In June of this year, the center held a cell culture meat tasting ceremony.

“It is expected that through technological breakthroughs, cultured meat can move from laboratory production to pilot production, and then industrialized production.” On September 26, at the seminar “Bio-Fermentation Technology and Cell Culture Meat”, Zhou Guanghong team member Ding Shijie revealed , After the team’s continuous research, the cell culture efficiency has been greatly improved. At present, after 20 days of culture period, 50 grams of cultured meat can be obtained.

Many interviewees repeatedly emphasized “China’s unique food culture habits” and “specific consumption scenarios” in interviews with Times Weekly reporters.

In Xue Yan’s view, plant-based food is an emerging field. For this field with the fastest growth rate in the back-end of agriculture and food, “Everyone is planning to deploy, but it is still early to compete. Foreign companies are good at Western-style catering, Chinese food Pay attention to frying, boiling, steaming, frying, cooking, and stewing. Domestic companies have local advantages. Everyone has their own fields and advantages. This market is full of opportunities.”

Lu Zhongming, the founder and CEO of Zhenrou, pays more attention to how to make plant-based meat products enter the public’s field of vision. “There are burgers in the United States. What is China? China may be hot pot, dumplings, or other different things.”

Chinese companies are still “crossing the river by feeling the stones.” Liu Jishan pointed out: “Chinese food pays attention to ingredients, taste, taste, and scenes. Different companies should target different groups. Everyone is robbing the concept of’artificial meat’ and robbing this market, but they have not thought clearly about what they can do. doing what.”

Landing problems

According to research data from Markets and Markets, an international market research organization, it is estimated that by 2023, the global meat substitute market will reach 6.43 billion U.S. dollars, and the Asia-Pacific region has the fastest growth in the meat substitute market. In 2019, the global plant-based artificial meat market is about 12.1 billion U.S. dollars, and it is expected to grow at an annual growth rate of about 15.0%, and it may reach 27.9 billion U.S. dollars by 2025.

Environmental protection, health, and meat substitutes are currently the main selling points of “artificial meat”. “Using vegetable protein to replace animal protein is not a question of do or not, but a question of what must be done.” Wu Qi gave a set of data. In 2018, the per capita consumption of meat in China was 60 kg, and the meat consumed by Chinese people. It is about 90 million tons, which is the combined consumption of 28 countries in the United States and the European Union.

“The market potential of’artificial meat’ is great, and many large companies and financial institutions at home and abroad are optimistic, and we are equally optimistic.” In Liu Jishan’s view, the market is facing many challenges at the same time, including how to solve technical problems and how to achieve Communication between consumers and how to meet the actual needs of consumers.

“The market prospects cannot be achieved in one or two days. There is still a way to go.” Liu Jishan said, “Many consumers will try it out of curiosity, but to form the habit of repeated consumption and continuous consumption, it is necessary for producers and consumers to work together. More communication between them.”

For Impossible Foods, “replace all meat with plant substitutes: meat, dairy products, fish, etc.” is their ultimate goal. In contrast, the domestic industry generally believes that if plant meat develops into a choice among people’s table dishes in the future, it is already a success.

“We do not advocate or are optimistic about the concept and direction of replacing animal meat with plant meat.” Zhou Qiyu, senior manager of the marketing department of Shenzhen Qishan Food Co., Ltd., told Times Weekly. Xue Yan has always emphasized that “animal protein and plant protein are complementary.”

Issues such as price and taste have increased the uncertainty of the landing of “artificial meat”.

The existing “artificial meat” is mainly produced in the form of minced meat. Although the appearance of real meat can be simulated by seasoning and coloring, it cannot imitate the taste of special parts such as chewing bones and fascia. A number of business executives and industry experts interviewed told Times Weekly that the current “artificial meat” does not have the chewy texture of real meat, and the taste is dry and light, and lacks viscoelasticity.

As far as the cost of raw materials is concerned, Henan Baichuan divides its products into low, medium and high grades, and the price per ton is about 10,000 yuan, 15,000 yuan and 20,000 yuan respectively.

“If it is used instead of meat, it basically has a yield rate of 1:2.7 after a soak in water. If the best silk-drawn protein is used to process vegetable meat, the raw material cost may not exceed 67 yuan per catty, compared with meat. Cost is a big advantage.” Jiang Xuhai analyzed that the current high price of “artificial meat” is mainly due to the large investment in technology research and development and commercial cooperation.

“Supermarkets are expensive, I think it may be that the channels charge more.” Zhang Jiayu believes that the terminal price of “artificial meat” is related to different business scenarios.

In the United States, a plant-based burger from Burger King is only 30% more expensive than ordinary burgers, and consumers can accept it, and it can land. The high-priced vegetarian meat in domestic supermarkets can only be a concept and cannot be sustained. Zhang Jiayu further explained: “Assuming that the cost of catering ingredients is about 30%, meat may account for 15%. Even if the cost of plant meat is twice as high as the cost of real meat, the price of burgers only needs to be increased by 15% to reduce the cost of plant meat. The cost is covered, and a little more price can be profitable. So the commercial landing scene needs to be clear.”

Although many A-share companies have the “artificial meat” halo on their heads, some related listed companies are trying to enter the field of “artificial meat” while developing their main business, and have not yet formed large-scale production and sales.

Shuangta Foods, whose main business is pea protein, said in response to investors on “How is the current development of the plant-based artificial meat business” that the company has set up two independent teams to make full use of the existing supermarkets, restaurants, and electronics. The company will increase its cooperation with some leading snack food and fast-moving food industries, develop new products, expand and occupy the market. In the future, the sales of plant meat products will focus on to B and to C. Sales.

Chen Su believes that the vegetable meat market has just developed, and the current growth rate is fast, the volume is not large, and the relatively small group, this is a necessary stage. “We pay attention to scale efficiency. Without a massive market, it is difficult for business costs to fall. After demand rises, costs will fall.” As a choice on the table, the price is relatively high and understandable.

“The cost will not be a big issue in the future, and it will not be much different from traditional food.” Liu Jishan pointed out to a reporter from Times Weekly that the key is to consider the specific consumption level, consumption scene and consumption function of the product. “The key is how to position it. It is to be developed as an ordinary food that the people can afford. If you want to meet higher-end needs, you need higher investment in technological development, and the cost may be relatively higher.