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Taiwan's mock meat market expands

Companies see lucrative prospects in country with 2.5 million vegetarians

Plant-based sandwich (Facebook, Starbucks photo)

Plant-based sandwich (Facebook, Starbucks photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Coffee and convenience store chains are looking to tap into Taiwan’s faux meat market, which they believe has tremendous potential in a country with a NT$60 billion (US$2.09 billion) per year vegan meals industry.

In September, Starbucks added three items to its Taiwan menu from Beyond Meat, a U.S.-based producer of plant-based meat substitutes. Following the move — after similar launches in Canada, China, the U.S., and Hong Kong this year — there has been 10 percent sales growth in such meals at the coffeehouse’s Taiwan branches, reported CNA.

FamilyMart, a major convenience store franchise chain in Taiwan, is also cashing in on the growing popularity of meat alternatives. Buoyed by the well-received Beyond Meat burgers launched in November 2019, it introduced vegan meat frozen food in March, with sales of over 10,000 units a day.

Retailer Carrefour has five mock meat items in stores, including chicken nuggets and sausages. The main consumers of the products are people in their 20s or 30s, a tech-savvy group inclined to try out new foods, the company observed.

Approximately 13 percent of Taiwan's population is vegetarian, or 2.5 million, by a 2018 estimate, according to Greenpeace. Obstacles remain for the development of plant-based meat industries, however, despite a rise in eco-conscious and animal-friendly communities.

The taste of mock meat may not satisfy those with a picky palate, while consumers could be put off by the relatively high cost of such meals. There are also product labeling and marketing issues that will affect consumer interest in meat alternatives, according to the Business Model Innovation Research Division of the Commerce Development Research Institute.