Studies & Numbers

Chinese Consumers Are Open to Plant-Based Diets When Aware of Health Benefits

A new study by ProVeg International, “Plant-based eating in China: attitudes and opportunities,” found that nearly all Chinese consumers (98%) are willing to eat more plant-based foods after learning about their health benefits.
The Kantar Group’s survey targeted 1,000 people in major cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. Primarily omnivores and flexitarians, respondents were presented with 15 statements highlighting the advantages of plant-based diets. These benefits spanned health, the environment, animal welfare, food security, and taste.

Health concerns drive interest

The survey employed an “Agreement/Persuasion Matrix” to categorize the benefit statements. This method allowed researchers to identify which benefits resonated most with consumers and which were most persuasive in driving dietary changes.

Consumer shopping at supermarket concept. Young adult asian woman customer choosing instant food seasoning product from shelf. Asian woman consumer choosing food or seasoning product at supermarket store.
© dodotone -stock.adobe.com

At the end of the survey, the research identified a strong correlation between awareness of health benefits and a willingness to incorporate more plant-based options into diets.

The survey’s findings on the health benefits of plant-based diets, such as their ability to lower BMI, reduce chronic disease risks, and benefits like high calcium, protein content, and rich iron sources, present a significant opportunity for manufacturers to develop impactful marketing campaigns, argues the study.

Shirley Lu, Managing Director and Asia & China Representative at ProVeg, said, “By highlighting the health, environmental, and culinary advantages, we can collectively work towards transforming our food system to one that is beneficial for humans, plants, and animals alike.”

McDonald's plant-based coffee with Oatly oats and pistachio.
© McDonald’s China

China poised for plant-based growth

The international impact-oriented investment firm Dao Foods views China as the world’s most significant protein and food market.  According to the firm, the increasing investments by leading food companies in the alternative protein sector indicate a shift towards health-conscious and environmentally sustainable products.

Plant-based innovations have continued to rise in the last year, with startups launching new products, from tofu to coconut-based dairy to plant-based beverages.  However, Dao Foods believes that companies should leverage the penetration of plant-based milk and beverages to expand their markets as demand for these products grows. The plant-based protein beverage market is expected to reach 140 billion yuan by 2026.

In its latest series, China Food for Thought, the firm points out various examples. Oatly launched pistachio oat milk in the country in collaboration with McDonald’s, Costa, and Seesaw, offering limited-edition pistachio oat lattes during festive periods. Similarly, Nestlé introduced a red bean plant-based beverage in three flavors, promising nutritional and health benefits: low in sugar, free of trans fats, and rich in dietary fiber.

hoefood carefree pulled chicken
Image courtesy of Haofood

KFC  introduced “Buddhist-style” plant-based beverages, which became popular among health-conscious and young Chinese consumers. It also expanded its rice milk-based beverage line. Similarly, the Chinese company Hiroad Food Technology opened a new factory to produce plant-based cream and protein beverages.

Regarding proteins for meat alternatives, Baichuan Bio-Technology, China’s top producer of textured vegetable protein, has officially registered with regulatory authorities to seek guidance for an initial public offering (IPO). The company aims to transition 20% of meat consumption to plant-based protein.

Lu added, “China boasts a rich heritage of plant-based diets and a wealth of healthy plant ingredients. Government agencies, educational institutions, and plant-based food businesses can leverage this study to educate consumers about the benefits and impact of plant-based diets.”

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