Plant-based egg goes east: JUST outlines China expansion plans
Made from mung beans, JUST Egg will first enter China via e-commerce platforms, including Tmall and JD.
The e-commerce launch will take place sometime in January 1 to February 15, Tetrick said, depending on the market roll out process.
Besides e-commerce, JUST is also working with retail stores and restaurants to sell its plant-based egg.
They include supermarket chains City Super, Hema, and restaurants Hunter Gatherer, Ajisen Ramen, and Flavours, plus food conglomerate Ting Hsin International Group.
“We are the first major food technology company to launch in China,” he said.
For a start, the firm will target consumers in the first tier cities, “and within the next three years, it would be everyone,” he added.
In total, it is working with more than 40 partners in China. It held a VIP event for its corporate partners in Shanghai, where JUST Egg was introduced last month.
“For the most part, they (the VIPs) said it (JUST Egg) tasted like an egg, and that it is positive for the body, for the environment and for the country, that was pretty much the general responses that we had.”
He believed that China probably had the greatest demand for plant-based food, due to their awareness of food security.
During the VIP event, he also quoted Chinese president Xi Jinping’s quote on food security: "The rice bowl of the Chinese people must be held firmly in our hands."
Asia’s first manufacturing site
In its initial phase, JUST will ship JUST Egg to China from its manufacturing site in North America.
Moving forward, there are plans to manufacture the products in China.
“Our first manufacturing site in Asia is very likely to be in China. We are negotiating with a few different potential partners right now, I don’t have an exact timeline. But conversations are going really very well and (to have) such a phenomenal opportunity to situate a major product factory here, it is truly exciting,” Tetrick said.
“I think there is a real hunger for a different, better approach here in China, so when we presented (our idea) to our partners in China, it became quick that they wanted to be a part of it.”
China, the largest egg producer
China is the world’s largest egg producer, producing about 435 billion eggs per year, requiring 1.2 billion hens, according to JUST.
As such, there is a market opportunity for plant-based eggs in China.
“Food security is so critical in China and we really think that it is our opportunity for China to not only see itself in a more self-sufficient way, but also to create an entirely new industry,” Tetrick said.
“So we want to pursue manufacturing opportunities here, and even distribute the products to rural china, we believe that China should be the hub of food technology in helping the world to eat better as the population increases."
“Right now, food requires so much land, so much water, and egg production requires so much land and water, I mean it requires billions of chicken and it requires all of these energy and we can do it differently, we can do it in a way that’s simple, in a way that’s better for the environment, in a way that’s really tasty."
“It is also exciting that the key ingredient in our product (JUST Egg) is the green bean (mung bean), which has been eaten for centuries in China.”
Selling cell-cultured meat
Besides plant-based eggs, JUST will also introduce its cell-cultured meat, including wagyu beef and chicken into Asia.
JUST will be launching its cell-cultured chicken meat product, a chicken nugget, in Asia.
Tetrick said he hoped to launch the product by the end of March.
The chicken meat was also served during the VIP event in Shanghai.
Previously, JUST also announced a partnership with Toriyama, a family-owned producer of Japanese Wagyu beef and Awano Food Group, a premier international supplier of meat and seafood.
JUST will develop cultured Wagyu beef from Toriyama cattle’s cell lines, while Awano, which is Toriyama’s export agent, will market and sell the cell-cultured meat.
Asked the reasons for working on the Toriyama cattle, Tetrick said that it was mainly due to the superior taste of the Toriyama Wagyu beef.
“Mostly because of the taste of it, it is the best meat in the world, people should have access to the highest quality, the best umami, the best combination of fats."
“The Toriyama family has been doing this for three generations and we had a conversation with them and they are really excited about taking their traditional and bringing it to more and more people. We have the technology and the brand to allow them to do it."
“I think the most important, the thing that we will focus on, is that it tastes really good. As we make more and more product, we are going to let them sample it and make sure they feel good about it before we launch it.”