GlobalData: China's meat substitutes market set to surge 12.6% CAGR over 2022-2027 as health/lifestyle lead younger consumers to alternative proteins; government policies aim to cut meat consumption by 50% by 2030, aligning with carbon neutrality targets

Sample article from our Government & Public Policy

April 20, 2023 (press release) –

China’s meat substitutes market has reached an inflection point, spurred by the entry of domestic and multinational companies, a surge in product innovations, and favorable government policies. Moreover, health and lifestyle factors are encouraging more Millennials and Gen Z consumers to explore alternative proteins. As a result, value sales of meat substitutes in China will surge at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.6% over 2022–27, forecasts GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

GlobalData estimates that soy-based products and vegetable/plant-based proteins will lead the growth in the Chinese meat substitutes market over the forecast period, while the grain-based segment will witness a slow down.

Bobby Verghese, Consumer Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “The economic boom in the 1980s fueled the consumption of meat and seafood, which came to symbolize good health and rising economic status. As a result, China emerged as the world’s largest market for animal meat, accounting for nearly half of the world’s pork consumption and over 30% of lamb meat volumes in 2022*. Mainstream Chinese cuisine has become meat-centric, with older generations perceiving vegetarianism as an orthodox Buddhist practice. They view veganism as a mere Western food fad despite tofu-based mock meat being prevalent in Chinese cuisine for centuries.”

Kiki Wu, Consumer Business Development Manager at GlobalData China, notes: “The scenario is slowly changing with vegetarian and vegan diets gaining more acceptance among Gen Y and Gen Z consumers, spurred by social media, celebrity influencers, and health concerns accentuated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Accordingly, GlobalData’s 2022 consumer survey** revealed that 4% of Chinese respondents identify themselves as vegans or vegetarians, 13% as flexitarians, and another 17% said they had low-meat diets. In a country with 1.4 billion people, this points to a large total addressable market for meat substitutes. Unsurprisingly, both domestic and multinational alternative protein companies are making a beeline for the Chinese market.”

Verghese continues: “To get meat substitutes to take off in China as they have in the West, meat alternatives makers need to alter the consumer mindset. However, this is challenging in a market where “taste is king” and so is price. To attract consumers to try out alternative proteins, manufacturers are rolling out meatless meats that are customized for local dishes and palates, in convenient and versatile formats. By going mainstream, they aim to achieve price parity through economies of scale.”

Wu concludes: “Government policy support is a catalyst that can ignite the growth of the meat substitute sector. For instance, in 2015, the health ministry announced plans to reduce the population’s meat consumption by 50% by 2030 to curb obesity under its Health China 2030 program. Alternative proteins can play a crucial role in helping people transition to a low-meat diet in line with these national health goals.

“Reducing the scale of livestock farming is also pivotal for China to meet its target of carbon neutrality by 2060. Moreover, in 2022, plant-based milk, eggs, and meat were included as future foods for building better food systems in Beijing’s 14th Five-Year Plan. However, the government’s efforts to promote adjacent spaces, such as cultivated meat or lab-cultured meat, insect proteins, and precision fermentation will intensify competition for plant-based meat substitutes in the long term.”

* GlobalData Consumer Intelligence Center ­– Market Analyzers, accessed in April 2023

** GlobalData Q4 2022 Consumer Survey – China, with 513 respondents, published December 2022

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