(Reuters) - Starbucks Corp (SBUX.O) said on Monday it would roll out a plant-based food and beverage menu in China this week, launching Beyond Meat Inc (BYND.O) and Oatly products in a country which is trying to recover from coronavirus shutdowns.
The world’s biggest coffee chain has reopened most of its stores in China, where the outbreak appears to be slowing, and is banking on the new products to pull in more curious and environmentally-conscious diners.
The new lunch menu will feature pastas and lasagna made with Beyond Meat’s plant-based alternative beef products, and also include dishes from Omnipork, a plant-based pork alternative brand.
The launch is an important step for Beyond Meat which is looking to expand into Asia, where meat alternative products still have not experienced the popularity boom seen in the United States and parts of Europe.
As part of the launch in China, Beyond Meat said it would set up a Chinese-language website, as well as make use of popular social media channels Weibo and WeChat.
Oat milk from Sweden’s Oatly has already been available in China for a while, sold mainly at supermarkets and speciality coffee shops, but the partnership with Starbucks will be its biggest one so far in Asia, Toni Petersson, the company’s chief executive officer told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday.
Its milk will be on the menu at some 4,300 Starbucks locations in China starting from Wednesday, bringing its points of sale in the country to around 11,000. “The Chinese Mainland and Asia as a whole is probably going to be one of the most important markets for us very soon,” he said.
He said like many others, Oatly’s offline businesses had been impacted by virus-related shutdowns of coffee shops and food outlets, but said those losses were more than made up for by e-commerce, where first-quarter revenue tripled from the previous quarter.
The company will establish a local innovation team in Shanghai to produce and develop products tailored for the Chinese market, according to Petersson.
He also said the Swedish brand is pressing ahead with plans to build two new factories in the next nine months, one in Singapore and one in the United States, and aims to produce 300 million litres of milk this year, up from 66 million litres in 2018.
It currently has three factories, two of which are in Europe and a third in the United States.
“(The Singapore factory) is going to be up and running either late 2020, or quarter one in 2021 to serve the Asian region, but we’re going to have to continue to supply from Europe for sure,” he said.
Reporting by Uday Sampath in Bengaluru and Winni Zhou in Shanghai; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu, Kirsten Donovan