FNA Food and Beverage Trailblazers Podcast Episode 27

PODCAST: ‘Integrating, not replacing’ – HEROTEIN VP on the New Protein movement in China and her leap from finance to food

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

In this episode of our Food and Beverage Trailblazers podcast we speak to Coco Tse, Vice President of Strategy and Operations at HEROTEIN.
In this episode of our Food and Beverage Trailblazers podcast we speak to Coco Tse, Vice President of Strategy and Operations at HEROTEIN.

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In this episode of our Food and Beverage Trailblazers podcast we speak to Coco Tse, Vice President of Strategy and Operations at HEROTEIN, about the rise of the ‘New Protein’ movement in China, the need for localised products, and format innovation.

HEROTEIN is one of China’s leading new-generation plant-based meat companies, backed by a team of former senior R&D executives from big plant-based names such as Beyond and Impossible. The firm has a variety of plant-based beef, chicken and other items already being sold on Chinese supermarket shelves and other retail channels, with more innovations such as hybrid plant-based-cultured meat products and ready-to-eat/ready-to-heat items on the way as well.

In China, what is commonly known as ‘alternative protein’ has been dubbed ‘New Protein’, as the industry believes that this distinction is important to heighten appeal and acceptance amongst consumers.

“We call it ‘New Protein’ instead of alternative protein because the aim is for consumers to perceive these products - whether plant-based, cultured or made from fermented technology - as something new that can be integrated into their daily diets, and not that they necessarily have to swap out meat entirely,”​ Tse told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

“We look at the objective here as being to reduce the overall consumption of conventional meat versus an entire complete replacement of it.

The rise of the ‘New Protein’ movement in China began with plant-based meat in 2019 and was followed by the establishment of local cultured meat firms in 2020, some of which have already debuted products last year.

“New Protein is really important to China as China has the largest population in the world, and with rising growth and urbanisation, the demand for protein is huge - one quarter of total global consumption,”​ Tse added.

“Over the last few years we have seen widening gaps between protein supply and demand in China, fuelled primarily by foreign imports of conventional protein – so New Protein stands as alternative solution to fill this protein gap whilst also tackling other sustainability issues.”

She added that it is likely that the hybrid products category – a combination of two or more categories of New Protein – is going to be the biggest growth area in China, as it incorporates the best aspects of each category to balance taste, cost and functionality aspects as demanded by local consumers.

Tse comes from a finance and investment background, and also shared with us that she opted to make the switch to sustainable food entrepreneurship - instead of sustainable financing which would be comparably more in line with her background – because of the stronger and more personal impact she believes it can make.

“I chose sustainable food over other sustainability industries such as sustainable financing despite my background because food is such a personal experience, and it is empowering to be able to tell consumers they can be the ones to make the changes in their daily lives and contribute to this huge change by doing so,”​ she enthused.

“Although global MNCs may be making huge sustainability impacts in production and other areas via initiatives such as carbon reduction, these achievements can seem more remote to the regular consumer, such as perhaps a company switching to renewable energy sources, as consumers have far less control here as opposed to say choosing what they eat every day.”

Listen to the full podcast above to find out more.

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