The recent announcement from Beyond Meat (a Los Angeles-based producer of plant-based meat substitutes, founded in 2009) that they plan to partner with Yum China Holdings Inc. to offer “Beyond Burgers” at selected KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell locations in mainland China is interesting on a number of levels.
Firstly, while “meat alternative” food products are popular in the US and Europe, they haven’t yet taken off in Asian markets which offer enormous potential. It’s interesting that Beyond Meat have gone straight into China, rather than experimenting in the fast food outlets based in other Asian markets (e.g. Singapore, Hong Kong) as they might have done in the past.
Secondly, according to Reuters, “KFC will offer the burger as a three-day limited offer at five locations across the cities of Beijing, Chengdu, Hangzhou and Shanghai”. Whilst nobody would be surprised to see Beijing and Shanghai on this list, it’s interesting to note the initial focus on the emerging second tier cities of Chengdu and Hangzhou, rather than the more obvious choices of Guangzhou and possibly Shenzhen.
I’ve talked to one or two chinese friends about this and it doesn’t surprise them because Hangzhou and Chengdu are gaining a reputation for being more focused on relaxation, lifestyle and the quality of life, rather than just work only. Being the home of Alibaba plus the romantic appeal of the West Lake, Hangzhou has become a cool place to live, travel and visit with new fancy boutique hotels offering unique experiences. Chengdu is in the heart of Szechuan Province and is also known for its food, bars, clubs and nightlife, and so this was an obvious choice too. They’ve clearly done their research.
As we often say, China is not one market, its many markets. And it’s changing fast.