The plant-based drink segment
The plant-based drink segment is showing great momentum.

In the China Food and Nutrition Development Outline (2014-2020) issued by the General Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, the publishers mentioned practicing dining traditions with plant-based food as the main food. So far, the plant-based market in China has been showing great momentum and has a bright future with government policy support. In 2020, leading F&B brands started weighing in the plant-based segment. Currently, there are two categories in China’s plant-based segment: plant-based meat and plant-based drinks.  

Related data shows that since 2010, the sales of plant-based protein beverages in China increased with a compound annual growth rate of 24.4%.  

What makes plant-based drinks so “hot”?  

More and more young consumers are embracing healthy lifestyles, featuring low-sugar, low-fat, low-calorie, and low cholesterol; more than 70% of Chinese people are lactose intolerant, and they are seeking absorbable protein drinks that provide similar nutritional value as cow milk; on top, the pandemic has encouraged Chinese consumers to pursue natural, zero-sugar, zero-additives products, and pay more attention to their immune system. 

Who are the early adaptors of plant-based drinks?  

Young and middle-class consumers are the main force of new consumption in China; post-90s and Gen Z, who pay attention to healthy nutrients, are pursuing nascent and unique products; fitness enthusiasts and bodybuilders have specific nutrition needs after exercising; office workers, who practice irregular dining habits and lack of exercise, favor healthy drinks; vegetarians believe plant-based products are in line with their healthy lifestyle.  

What brands should do to set themselves apart from the competition?  

Brands can expand their brand awareness by co-branding with complementary products to attract more consumers; high-premium, diversified, and nutritious drinks will always be what consumers are looking for; selling different products in specific scenarios is easier to grab consumers’ attention and hearts; entertainment marketing is more suitable for young consumers to get a better understanding of a brand’s positioning; this is especially true for new brands.  

China’s plant-based drink segment is forging ahead toward a healthy, green, and sustainable position in the consumers’ minds. The segment should also practice more seriously a profound product R&D and innovation based on consumers’ demands. 

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