Impossible Foods creating plant-based pork as it eyes China

In a file photo taken on Oct 6, 2016, the completed plant-based hamburger is displayed during a media tour of Impossible Foods labs and processing plant in Redwood City, California.
In a file photo taken on Oct 6, 2016, the completed plant-based hamburger is displayed during a media tour of Impossible Foods labs and processing plant in Redwood City, California.PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Impossible Foods is working to launch plant-based pork as it looks to enter China, the crown jewel of the US$2.7 trillion (S$3.67 trillion) global meat market.

"We already have very good prototypes of plant-based pork," chief executive officer Pat Brown said in a Bloomberg TV interview at the China International Import Expo in Shanghai on Wednesday (Nov 6). "It's really just a matter of commercialising and scaling that."

With China accounting for 28 per cent of the world's meat consumption, the Asian giant has "always been the most important country for our mission", he said. His company is in discussions with potential local partners and Chinese government officials, he added.

A successful China entry would be a game-changer for the nascent imitation meat market, which currently accounts for less than 1 per cent of the global meat consumption, but has the potential to reach 9 per cent by 2040, according to Jefferies analyst Simon Powell.

Impossible's faux beef burgers are already served at Burger King and other restaurants in the US, while it's also seeking to sell in Europe.

Over 60 per cent of Chinese consumers' daily meat intake is pork, but an epidemic of African swine fever has forced widespread hog culling. Pork prices spiked nearly 70 per cent in September, hurting household budgets.

"As a small company, we are not going to fill the void left by the African swine fever epidemic," said Brown. "But this is an opportunity as people are going to realise how vulnerable animal-based food production is. It's a real food security issue and we want to help China solve that."

Brown said that Chinese government officials "are really committed to reducing their environmental footprint and very aware of food security issues".

"Demand for meat exceeds by a factor of four what China can produce on its own land," he said. "That's why every time someone eats a steak in China, a little puff of smoke goes up in the Amazon."