Xi Jing raised funds - food tech news in Asia

Ji Xing, a Chinese almond milk brand, raised 10 million Yuan (~USD 1.5 million) in an Angel round, invested by Xiangtai Investment, Jin Huifeng, and Tomato Capital. The funds will be used mainly for R&D.

Ji Xing was founded in 2019 by Yu Yaqing who was also the founder of the plant leasing brand “Phoenix Zemu”, which has served many corporations, such as China Mobile, Central Treasury Bonds, and Xiaomi. The team of Ji Xing is coming from various fields, including online platforms, traveling services, and more.

The plant-based milk alternatives segment is still a young and emerging market in China. Oatly launched this segment as the new hype back in 2016 and it took the famous brand more than 2 years to catch the attention of the consumers in China, mainly by adopting a clear strategy of going first to coffee shops. The main selling points were fewer calories and more fiber than cow milk. First adopters were people with lactose intolerance and consumers who followed the new trend of plant-based products.

Plant-based milk alternatives are not a new concept in China; soymilk is consumed for hundreds of years, mainly as a breakfast ready-to-drink beverage. What Oatly did was to show people that plant-based milk can be a substitute to cow milk in coffee and as a general health product that improves both individual lifestyles as well as contributes to a better environment.

Choosing to cooperate with coffee or milk tea shops has become a popular business model among new plant-based milk brands, imitating what Oatly did. However, Oatly used this strategy when the company was already a famous global brand. For startups, with no brand recognition, this strategy alone leaves very little impression on the average consumer. So, new companies need to engage in several go-to-market strategies to make an impression.

“Ji Xing” started also from the B2B2C market. The new brand is cooperating with coffee and milk tea chains, including Tongrentang Zhima Health, Tea Tai Liang, Xiao Da Dong, Tiantan Fu Drink, Cup One, Kafina, Creeper, and more. Recently, Metal Hands, an independent specialty coffee brand from Beijing, and Louis Vuitton also launched limited-time pop-up shop cooperation at the theme exhibition in Shenzhen, using the plant-based almond milk from Ji Xing.

In terms of product creation, Ji Xing is using the UHT process as opposed to other common almond drinks on the market that use the pasteurization method, which takes 30 minutes of boiling to achieve the effect of sterilization; this and other process innovations create a better supply chain experience and time-to-market.

As for the raw material, Ji Xing is using natural mountain almonds, which are a unique raw material in the northern region of China and have the advantage of better local taste. Compared with oat milk, coconut milk, and soy milk, almond milk has a lower calorie content and high medicinal value. The main consumer segment of Ji Xing in China is the new middle-class age group of 25-45 years old, in first and second-tier cities, most of which are health-conscious people, as well as lactose intolerance and milk allergies population.

As we mentioned, the plant-based milk segment in China is still in its early stage, with more brands and categories bound to occupy this fast-growing space. We will continue watching out for additional interesting products and market feedback.

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