Beyond Meat entered China through amazing partnerships: Starbucks, KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. They recently just partnered with Freshippo grocery stores. It’s a grocery for people that are less sensitive to price… a great place for Beyond Meat to find the early adopters willing to pay extra for vegetarian meat.

But creating growth and awareness for it throughout China is a daunting task… especially online. China’s ecommerce market may not be ready for it just yet.

Taobao’s search engine is very much driven by its category structure and Beyond Meat doesn’t quite fit in anywhere. This is where more than half of China’s online shopping takes place. The problem is that it doesn’t allocate any room for alternative meat to show up in the search results of any meat related keyword.

At the very least, Beyond Meat can own search traffic for its own brand name. But from there, you’ll see that Beyond Meat’s position on Taobao is already off. All the results fall under the “vegeterian meat” category. This doesn’t sound so bad until you realize that its parent category is NOT “meats.”

 

It’s “Snacks & Nuts.”

 

Vegeterian meat is popular as an alternative to meat, ONLY for dried snacks similar to beef jerkies. Most of the time they’re made of tofu.

 

 

But to target the masses… including consumers who aren’t yet familiar with the Beyond Meat brand name, it’s important to show up when people search for meat. That puts Beyond Meat’s hero product, Beyond Burger, in an awkward position.

“Burger meat” can be classified as “raw meat,” which is a big category.

Unfortunately, Beyond Meat’s products are currently boxed out of the category. Even if it could…. there is no sub-category for burger patties. All burger meat falls under “other” meats. Burgers are just not common on Chinese dinner tables.

 

Beyond Meat’s CEO said, “Beyond Burger is not just limited to burgers, but can be adapted into Chinese recipes.” That’s like saying pink baby clothes work on boys too. Fortunately, there’s no harm in the message (some brands have been destroyed by this). But a lack of attention to Chinese consumers will not incentivize people to give Beyond Meat’s products a try.

Instead of saying Beyond Burger can be used in dumplings, the brand would be better service by localizing their offerings. For example, creating packaging targeted to a Chinese stapel… dumplings.  Or rather, they should offer products people are actually searching for and spending money on. Taobao’s existing beef sub-categories include briskets, steak, meatballs, skewers, beef (ox) tails, beef slices (they go into hot pots). Any one of these would be a decent start.

 

“Fake meat is here. Would you dare eat it?” That’s the common narrative of alternative meats in China. It’s a huge decision for many consumers to even try meat that isn’t real.

To overcome this, KOLs can help build that awareness Beyond Meat needs. In China, people follow people who follow brands. Stock investors shouldn’t be the only ones hearing about Beyond Meat. People need to hear others they trust and identify with saying how good the product tastes.

But once they cross that barrier and get enough people try Beyond Meat, there’s no doubt that China will be the brand’s largest market.

For now, they just need to make it a little easier to experiment with the “future” of meat because in China… nobody goes to their butcher asking for burger patties.