Meat alternatives have been around for a long time. Some of the earliest records of these substitutes can be traced back to the 10th century. However, only in the past few decades have meatless meat rose to prominence and popularity.

Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, the two most prominent meatless meat producers, have drawn the battlelines and have begun fighting for market share in Hong Kong.

Both companies produce plant-based meat substitutes that closely resemble foods such as burgers and sausages. Recently, they have received backing from a number of heavy-weight investors in anticipation of a change away from animal meat consumption. Big names such as Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing, Bill Gates, and even Leonardo DiCaprio have invested in either of the two companies.

The meatless meat market was further boosted on 2 May, after shares in Beyond Meat skyrocketed by 160 per cent to US$65.75 on their trading debut on the Nasdaq in New York, from an initial public offering price of US$25. The listing values the company at US$3.8 billion.

Both Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have also partnered with American fast food chains such as A&W and Burger King in order to raise awareness for their meatless products. In Hong Kong, they have begun courting high-profile restaurants in an attempt to win over the retail market and have them offer their meatless products for sale.

“We’ve decided to focus on Asia, where nearly half the world’s demand for meat is based, and also where demand is growing fastest”, said Chief Financial Officer at Impossible Foods, David Lee.

Heidi Nam, the company’s general manager in Hong Kong, said since its launch last year, 160 restaurants are now serving Impossible Foods. But its products are not available for retail yet; citing that they are still building their credibility as the main reason.

Hong Kongers love their meats. The meat business is worth US$1.4 trillion a year, while Hong Kong alone imported US$1.7 billion worth of US meat in 2018. Hong Kong University researchers have found that Hong Kongers consumer approximately 664 grams of meat daily, making the city’s pork and beef consumption the highest. On a per capita basis, Hong Kongers are the greatest consumers of meat globally.

More competition in the meatless meat market is expected to arrive soon. Tyson Foods has announced that it will develop its own plant-based meat products, as will Nestle.

With concerns in Asia regarding reduced pork supply due to African Swine Fever, people are looking for alternatives. With health concerns such as these on the rise, the popularity of plant-based meat are predicted to rise. Retailers and restaurants both big and small are likely to begin offering more options for meatless products in the future.