DALIAN, China -- Nestle plans to start selling plant-based meat substitutes in China by the end of the year, betting its consumers will embrace fake meat as the coronavirus pandemic reduces pork imports from overseas.
The world's largest food company will spend over 100 million Swiss francs ($103 million) to expand existing facilities in Tianjin and launch fake-meat production, its first in Asia.
The plan is to start sales of meat substitutes by year-end, a spokesperson at the Swiss company's local unit told The Nikkei without specifying items or volumes. Output of snacks and pet food made at the factory will be ramped up as well.
The move comes as China, which consumes about half of the world's pork, saw its pig stock shrink about 20% over two years through this March on the spread of African swine fever that began in 2018. A supply chain disruption caused by the coronavirus will likely depress meat imports into China as well.
More food companies are joining the hot market for mock meat as global meat consumption increases with the population growth and the rise of the middle class. Nestle has launched imitation-meat burgers in the U.S. and Europe since 2019. In China, local startups are entering the growing market, which is expected to attract more foreign players.
Nestle generated sales of 6.9 billion Swiss francs from its China operations last year. It has 31 factories and three research and development centers in the country and employs roughly 43,000.