What is driving Chinese consumers towards plant-based alternatives and what are the implications for your brand?
Vegetarianism is catching on in China; with a population of 50M vegetarians (3.6% of the population), the country is steadily catching up with Europe (75M vegetarians). While it can be convenient to draw parallels with Western economies, vegetarianism in China shows some distinct differences.
Whereas in Europe a major driver behind vegetarianism lies in altruism and a growing awareness of our impact on the planet; the major driver amongst Chinese consumers is personal health. Since 2014, there has been a 159% increase in Britons going vegetarian for the planet. Some 31% of Chinese vegetarians also cite the environment as their main reason for cutting out animal products, but research has found that of 11 main drivers for adopting a meat-free diet in China, 5 are related to perceived health benefits. The most cited was ‘low fat’ (50%), followed by ‘low cholesterol’ (39%), ‘added nutritional benefits’ (33%), ‘increased fitness’ (29%), and ‘ free of pollution’ (23%). When deciding whether to adopt a plant-based diet, Chinese consumers are likely to consider several motivating factors.
Chinese consumers are gradually reducing their dietary dependence on meat, but factors such as flavour and texture continue to be influential in cementing product loyalty.
Meat remains popular in China for its taste and flavour. A recent study found that of those who tried a plant-based product but did not repurchase, 74% said it had ‘the wrong texture’, while 35% were repulsed by a ‘bad taste’. Of those who chose to repurchase, qualities of ‘good taste’ (38%), ‘no grease’ (35%), and ‘no meaty taste’ (29%) were the decisive factors. Meat consumption in China stands at c.169.39g of meat per person per day, this figure is less than both the USA and the EU (at 315.46g and 222.65g respectively) and is plateauing. Chinese consumers are gradually reducing their dietary dependence on meat, but factors such as flavour and texture continue to be influential in cementing product loyalty.
Growing demand for meat-free products in China is creating new opportunities for international brands with strong legacies in catering to vegetarian demand. Plant-based milk, a category growing globally at 10.18% CAGR, attributes > 25% of its sales to European brands. While opportunity exists, the winners are those that are adapting their vegetarian offering to a more ‘personal’ health demand.