Beyond Meat is on a roll in China.
The plant-based protein maker unveiled a new partnership on Wednesday with Chinese tech giant Alibaba, which will bring Beyond Burgers to supermarket shelves in mainland China for the first time.
Alibaba is kicking off the deal by rolling out the products in 50 of its Freshippo stores in Shanghai, the company’s futuristic supermarkets where customers use an app to order food and buy groceries. The tie-up marks Beyond Meat’s first placement in supermarkets in mainland China, where it first launched in April with a big Starbucks tie-up. Prior to that, the company’s goods were available in Hong Kong.
“We know that retail will be a critical part of our success in China, and we’re pleased to mark this early milestone within a few months of our market entry,” CEO Ethan Brown said in a statement. “Expanding into retail is the natural next step in building our market presence.”
Alibaba is the latest big-time partner Beyond has won in mainland China, a vast market that is seen as vital for the US company’s growth.
In its latest earnings call in May, Brown said that Beyond had recently set up a Chinese-language website, as well as accounts on local social media platforms such as Tencent’s WeChat, to spread the word about its debut there.
Last month, Beyond said it would bring its products to some of the country’s most popular fast food chains, including KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. That came just weeks after the company announced the agreement with Starbucks to get its meatless pastas, lasagnes and wraps on the menu.
Beyond also has a new deal with a local food distributor, Sinodis, which will help the company supply restaurants and caterers in China, according to Brown.
Competition is fierce. While the fake meat trend is still taking shape in mainland China, Beyond is going up against other popular brands, including fellow California upstart Impossible Foods, which has signaled plans for its own launch there.
Alibaba, for its part, wants to cash in on the growing phenomenon. “We have seen a growing interest in plant-based meat among our shoppers and look forward to offering more Beyond Meat products in the future,” Jiayu Zhao, senior director and head of merchandising at Freshippo, the Alibaba unit that oversees new retail initiatives, said in a statement.
In addition to stocking Beyond patties in stores, Alibaba will start offering them on its app, so that anyone who wants to order some from home can get them delivered.
The companies plan to expand their partnership in the fall, and will get burgers to dozens more stores in Beijing and Hangzhou starting in September, they said.