This week, Chinese vegan startup Zhenmeat unveiled its newest product: vegan crayfish (also known as crawfish). Chinese people are one of the biggest consumers of the crustacean, and Zhenmeat developed the product—made from konjac and seaweed extracts—to provide a vegan, more environmentally friendly and efficient option. “One major problem is that Chinese consumer(s) love crayfish but if you look at [the consumption] of crayfish, there are two big problems. One problem is a lot of food waste. The tail meat is smaller than [the] body. If you have 10kg of crayfish, once you discard [the] head and tails, you only get 1kg of crayfish meat,” Zhenmeat founder and CEO Vince Lu told CNBC. “Second is: [the] quality of the crayfish is not very [uniform]. Demand is so huge but supply cannot meet demand.”
In addition to crayfish, the company developed a deep-fried plant-based pork tenderloin made from soy and pea protein and coated in sweet potato starch. Zhenmeat developed the product specifically to cater to hot pot restaurants across China.
Lu also explained that Zhenmeat’s differentiating factors with its competitors, such as Beyond Meat—which entered the Chinese market by way of 4,200 Starbucks locations in April—lies in its founding mission of creating products that specifically appeal to Chinese consumers. “Our unique advantage is to find the most favorite dishes in China and use tech to replicate these meat dishes,” Lu said.
Zhenmeat currently sells its ground vegan beef at retail stores in China but has yet to secure distribution for the new crayfish and pork products.