The smoked sausage product was launched earlier this year, and Baicaowei has dubbed it as being the ‘New Era of Meat II’.
“Our man-made meat snack is made from plant proteins, specifically non-GMO soybeans. It is the first ready-to-eat man-made meat product processed at low temperature in the country,” Baicaowei Co-Founder Tanya Wang told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“The technique used here is different from that for other vegetarian meats in China. We use non-GMO soy protein from the north-east together with twice-distilled konjac powder and other ingredients, and this is then applewood-smoked.
“The product texture simulates fascia (connective tissue) and gives the same marbling as in meat, in addition to having a very distinct smoked flavour and aroma.”
The sausage aims to capitalize on the rising trend of ‘new plant-based meat snacking with zero guilt’ that is on the rise in the country, and particularly targets consumers between the 18 to 35 age range.
In line with this, health and wellness is also a very driver for the firm, with many of its products geared towards this.
“2019 market research data from Innova showed that over 65% of Chinese consumers are health-conscious and demand foods and beverages that confer health benefits and help with weight loss,” Wang added.
“In response to this, Baicaowei also continuously launched products that are health-orientated, for example our ‘Energy Today’ series which includes high-protein smoked beef and almond bars, which have high protein and dietary fibre content.
“We also have some organic products like chestnuts, which we only process by steaming without adding any additives. This product has been certified by the Organic Food Development & Certification Center of China and every packet has a unique 12-digit tracking code to trace back to its geography of origin.”
PepsiCo recently acquired Baicaowei, which is also known as Be&Cheery, for US$705mn, with the MNC’s Greater China CEO Ram Krishnan describing it as ‘highly complementary’ to its existing China business.
“Be & Cheery adds direct-to-consumer capability [for PepsiCo in China], positioning us to capitalise on continued growth in e-commerce. [It is also] a local brand that is able to stretch across a broad portfolio of products, through both online and offline channels.”
Baicaowei has over 1,000 product SKUs, amongst which its current best-selling item is its ‘Everyday Nuts’, sold as a box containing 30 packs of various mixed nuts for CNY399 (US$57) – coming to about US$1.90 per packet.
“In 2019, our ‘Everyday Nuts’ sales hit over CNY500mn (US$71mn), and we expect this to rise too CNY650mn (US$92.3mn) this year,” said Wang.
Another of the firm’s most popular items are its Chinese New Year gift boxes, particularly those which comprise its mixed nuts.
“From 2012 to 2019, we have sold about 45 million of these gift boxes, and also take 25% of the mixed nuts category in this sector,” she said.
Baicaowei literally translates to ‘Taste of 100 Plants’, and the name has its origin in an Chinese myth about the deity ‘Divine Farmer’ Shen Nong who put his own life at risk and consumed 100 types of herbs and plants over 49 days to write the revered Shennong Ben Cao Jing (Shen Nong’s Compilation of Herbal Medicines) on agriculture and herbs and help cure many ills.
“We want to be like him, exploring the new and helping the people,” said Wang.
Although it was launched in 2003, the firm primarily operated online since 2010, where its annual turnover increased by 282 times between the years 2011 to 2019.
However, Baicaowei is increasingly looking at a more omnichannel model, with focus on its offline presence as well as online.
“One of our targets has been to go down the omnichannel route, and we have been trialling this since 2019,” said Wang.
“As of 2020, we have stores all over the country, and intend to work together with our retail partner (Alibaba’s Lingshoutong) to upgrade 2,500 model stores nationwide. We will continue to improve our offline channel operations this year.
At present, Baicaowei products also have presence beyond China in Australia, Europe and South East Asia via various channels, and is looking to go even further.