Late last week Impossible Foods’ senior vice president for international, Nick Halla, spoke on CNBC about what’s next for the plant-based startup — or really, where’s next. “Asia is by far the number one focus for us,” he stated. “It is core to our mission; core to our business.”
Impossible has actually been edging into Asian markets for a while now: they’re currently in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Macau. But Halla’s interview shows just how intensely they’re setting their sights on the continent.
And honestly, it’s a smart strategy. Allied Market Research reports that the Asia-Pacific region is the fastest-growing market for meat alternatives, and the market isn’t as heavily saturated as it in the U.S. or Europe.
There’s also an environmental angle. Asia is the world’s largest meat producer, and, due to growing populations and shifting diets, meat and seafood consumption is projected to jump 78 percent by 2050. Countries are realizing this isn’t sustainable. For example, two years ago, the Chinese government announced an aim to cut national meat consumption by 50 percent. Pair that with recent food safety scares in the Asian meat industry, and the time seems ripe for protein alternatives.
But Impossible isn’t the only company that sees plant-based potential in Asia. Beyond Meat, Impossible’s most prominent plant-based competitor, has also set its sights on Asia. During the company’s inaugural earnings call, CEO Ethan Brown noted that Beyond would be expanding into areas with high market potential, Asia being one of at the top of the list (alongside South Africa and Chile). Currently, Beyond is available in Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Korea, and Taiwan.
There are also several newer startups making plant-based meat within Asia. Omnipork, which makes meat-free minced pork, and is sold in several Asian countries. Newcomer Phuture Meat also makes a plant-based pork product. It’s notable that both of these companies are focused on pork, which is China’s most consumed meat. I wonder if Impossible will try to develop “pork” products in order to capture more of the local market?
Asia may be on the cusp of a plant-based protein boom, but the region will also play an important role for cultured meat. San Francisco-based startup JUST has stated it will have the first-ever sale of cell-based meat later this year somewhere in Asia. The location choice is mainly spurred by looser regulatory frameworks and the aforementioned growing demand for animal-free meat options.
Until then, though, Asia is fertile soil for international plant-based companies to grow. Impossible would be wise to establish as wide a footprint as possible in Asian countries before more competitors enter the scene.