China’s wet markets may have had a bad press over the COVID-19 pandemic, and it remains to be seen whether consumers are quite ready to adopt plant-based meat alternatives at scale, but both Starbucks and KFC believe there may be a market. 

Starbucks has announced the addition of a plant-based menu after teaming up with Beyond Meat, Omnipork, and Swedish dairy-substitute brand Oatly. The vegan options will at offered at most of Starbucks’ network nationwide. Starbucks will offer two pasta dishes and a wrap using Beyond Beef’s meat substitute product, reports Inside Retail Asia.

There will also be a noodle salad and a grain bowl with mushroom sauce containing Omnipork’s pork substitute. Oatly’s oat-milk beverage will be added to the drinks menu.

Meanwhile, KFC says it will trial plant-based fried “chicken” for the first time in China. Curious fried-chicken fans will need to buy a pre-sale coupon to taste the sample of five nuggets, supplied by US brand Cargill Ltd, according to Reuters. The chicken alternatives will be available at just three KFC branches in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen for a few days at the end of the month.

Reuters reports the KFC announcement received mixed reactions on social media, with some expressing the hope the meat alternative might be a healthier option; however, one of the most liked comments on Weibo was from a poster who declared simply: “We want to eat meat!”

The trial comes as both US brands Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are eyeing China as a key target market, Reuters noted, adding that poultry production in the country is threatened by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Commenting on the Starbucks’ vegetarian menu additions, Leo Tsoi, senior VP, COO and president at Starbucks China Retail, said the new choices were aimed making it easy for consumers to “explore new lifestyles”.

“Through our new plant-based platform, we seek to inspire new routines by inviting everyone to eat good, feel good and do good. Together, we can take a small, humble step to make a better world,” he said.

Beyond Meat’s founder and CEO Ethan Brown said the launch marked an important milestone for the company’s global ambitions. “Starbucks is a trusted brand with a strong market presence and deep understanding of customers in China, and we’re pleased to partner with them on our market entry.”

Oatly’s oatmilk drink will join soy milk on the menu, which has been an option in Starbucks China for 13 years.

Sourced from Inside Retail Asia, Reuters; additional content by WARC staff