How did you first decide to pursue a career in alt protein?
All I knew was that I was extremely passionate about sustainability, and on the side, loved to eat. When I decided to make a transition to become vegan, I found it difficult to find vegan options in Shanghai, where I grew up. When I went to Los Angeles for college, I was inspired by the amount of vegan options there, and took a lot of classes on subjects like food systems, nutrition and animal ethics. With this newfound knowledge, I decided to interview plant-based meat stakeholders in China for my thesis project as well as take up a part-time internship, which served as a great transition to my career in alternative protein now.
Tell us more about what you do now and what challenges/opportunities you see in the alt protein market in China:
Currently, I work in Shanghai as a Business Development Executive for a plant-based company called Green Monday. They have their own branded products and serve as a distributor for other plant-based food brands. My focus is on growing our restaurant and event partnerships.
In terms of challenges, changing consumer perceptions is key. Many consumers may associate plant-based meat with:
- Buddhist food / traditional mock meat products that don’t always taste great
- High pricing
- Health effects from "processed food"
There is also a challenge/ opportunity when it comes to government support, as a clear and distinct government policy for alternative proteins will be imperative for the continued growth of the sector.
Opportunities-wise, I think there is still room to grow for plant-based dairy products (beyond milk), and “chicken” or “beef” products as most are pork alternatives in the market right now.
Thanks so much Erin for sharing: where can our readers follow your foodie journey?
You can follow me on Instagram at @erinzhangx, but if you want to know more about exciting vegan eats in China, follow @grow.witherin!