Interview with Vegans of Shanghai, Organizers of the Chinese Vegan MeatFest

Chaniece Brackeen and Eve Samyuktha from Vegans of Shanghai

Founded July 2016, Vegans of Shanghai (VOS) is the first and only bilingual vegan grassroots organization in China with the primary goal of raising awareness about veganism and reducing the consumption of animal products for sustainable living. The group will organise the first MeatFest this year in China and we are delighted that they took time out to answer us a few questions about them, the MeatFest and future plans.

What is the MeatFest?
This festival is a family-friendly celebration of domestically sourced plant-based meat products, as well as mainstream chefs who support the movement toward a more environmentally conscious future. This will be the best place to try a wide variety of products – a haven for foodies and food critiques alike.

What can visitors experience there?
There will be meat. Enticing fragrances, sizzling sounds, and amazing textures of plant-based meats. We will be showcasing brands from all around the country, some are well-known internationally and some are family owned, locally based brands. But what will amaze you is that plant-based alternatives have been around China for more than a 1000 years! Visitors will experience the history and stories that these entrepreneurs and ventures have to share with us and how all of us can make a huge impact in reducing our carbon footprint together.

We were inspired by how “Beyond Meat” and “Impossible Burger” have changed how meat is perceived in western countries.

“Beyond Meat has famous investors like Bill Gates, Leonardo DiCaprio and
even former McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson and America’s largest meat processor, Tyson Foods. “ –cnbc.com

Impossible Burger’s Mission: TO SAVE MEAT. AND EARTH.
Animal agriculture occupies almost half the land on earth, consumes a quarter of our freshwater and destroys our ecosystems. So we’re doing something about it: we’re making meat using plants.” –impossiblefoods.com/mission

And then we thought…Wait a minute, don’t we have our own home-grown plant-based meat companies?
Turns out they exist and some of them also distribute internationally!

Is the taste and texture of vegan meat already par with brands from America or Europe?
It depends on what brands you are referring to. For example, even in America, there is a wide variety of meat alternatives, ranging from the likes of Boca and Gardein to Impossible Foods. No two brands are alike in what they taste like and their target markets a bit different. This is true for the manufacturers within China as well.

But for sure, there is one point we cannot ignore: these modern companies participating in the MeatFest have been in existence for decades; But the art of mimicking meat with plant ingredients in China dates as early as the Tang Dynasty – AD618-907!

As an organization with it’s values rooted in science, facts and rationality, this is inspiring to us – there is enough data to show that this art is time tested and is still thriving in a meat dominated culture.
They are insular however, in the sense that they market and sell to almost exclusive to the vegan and vegetarian food services and communities in the country.

With the MeatFest, we are introducing them to the mainstream market.

Which brands can visitors meet there?
Here are our participants plant-based meat manufacturers:

Vegans of Shanghai is organizing the meatfest, who are you?
MeatFest is organized by the bilingual grassroots organization Vegans of Shanghai, a non-profit community platform that networks those interested in the vegan/plant-based lifestyle in the city. VoS is maintained by Plant Based Consulting, whose mission is to popularize plant-based lifestyle in China by providing marketing services to businesses and advocates.

We participated in the 50/40 summit held by ProVeg International in Berlin last year and it was a beginning of a new journey for us since. After the CEVA [Centre for Effective Vegan Advocacy] training, we decided to go the extra mile and make advocacy our livelihoods for the coming years. We now have full time employees with several part-timers, free lance consultants and many volunteers.

Our Agenda Is Simple:
We want to expedite our restaurant outreach.

Restaurant Outreach efforts encourages eco-conscious eating by working closely with restaurants to present delicious plant-based/vegan food to the mainstream audience and the vegan community. We need a strong plant-based meat supplier network for us to efficiently to do our outreach with restaurants. The restaurant scene in Shanghai is dynamic, cut-throat and fast-paced. When we go to these business owners canvasing plant-based options, we need to offer food-solutions that are practical for them to buy, store, cook and offer to their customers. We aim to have a 30% switch to plant-based meat purchasing for over 100 non-vegan restaurants in the city. This is possible only if the suppliers are aware of what the mainstream market needs and have data for evolving their recipes. No one has ever showcased these product brands to the mainstream public and businesses. We want to highlight the long history the country has with making plant based meats. We expect the increase in brand awareness of these products to expedite our restaurant outreach efforts. We aim to increase plant-based options in mainstream restaurants and consequently reduce the carbon footprint of the food served at these places.

How man members do you have and what other activities do you play?
Right now, we have over 3,000 loyal, vegan members. We are rolling out our membership program that offers special offers to everyone in our network.
Our two primary projects at the moment are the restaurant outreach and a whole-foods-plant-based diet change program. Vegans of Shanghai put on regular events including talks, potlucks, restaurant meet-ups, cooking demos, nutrition advice sessions, documentary screenings, marathons.

Are you connected with other vegan organizations in China?
Yes, we are. We are connected with several major vegan media platforms like VegPlanet & VegRadar and other similar grassroot organizations like Good Food Fund.
We also exchange notes with Dao Foods International, Inc., a cross-border impact venture established to introduce plant-based and clean meat in China.

Where does Plant Based Consulting see themselves 5 years from now?
We want to expand our restaurant outreach and whole-foods-plant-based programs to other cities after 2020. Beijing is definitely our next stop and we have started networking with the local organizations there to form a collaborative relationship.

 

 

 

To know more about Vegans of Shanghai or MeatFest, contact the organizers at [email protected]

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