Beyond Meat has clinched a partnership with Chinese e-commerce giant Pinduoduo, in its latest marketing push after earlier tie-ups with JD.com and Tmall to tap growing consumer demand for plant-based protein in China. In a statement released on Thursday, the US-based vegan meat company announced the launch of an online store on Pinduoduo , a grocery platform known for its competitive pricing, where signature products such as Beyond Beef and Beyond Pork will be sold. It is the first global plant-based brand to launch a store on Pinduoduo, as it continues its expansion into the rapidly growing Chinese market for vegan food . The sector is forecast to be worth US$12 billion by 2023, according to a report by Euromonitor International. Beyond Meat launched its store on JD.com’s e-commerce platform in July. A year before that, it began selling in Alibaba’s Hema supermarket chain in Shanghai, marking the first time a plant-based meat had been sold in a grocery store in China. The company’s ambitions in China are also reflected in a new research and development centre set to open soon in Shanghai. It follows the set-up of a production plant in nearby Jiaxing – the company’s first end-to-end manufacturing facility outside the US. The Californian company may soon find itself facing stiffer competition in mainland China. There are signs Beijing is intent on supporting the growth of the domestic plant-based food sector , following a speech by President Xi Jinping’s at a high-profile public meeting with national political advisers in early March. “It is necessary to expand from traditional crops and livestock and poultry resources to more abundant biological resources; develop biotechnology and the bio-industry, and seek proteins from plants, animals and microorganisms,” the official statement read. Xi emphasised the need to structurally reform the agricultural industry in order to meet people’s “increasingly diversified food consumption needs.” Plant-based meat is lower in fat, energy, calories and cholesterol, and so carries greater health benefits than traditional meat which, when over-consumed, increases the risk of chronic conditions such as Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It also requires less resources and energy to produce, thus helping to conserve the environment. According to the Good Food Institute (GFI), an American think tank, the production of plant-based meat emits up to 90 per cent less greenhouse gas than conventional meat and uses between 72 per cent and 99 per cent less water. The rising appetite among Chinese consumers for alternative proteins is part of a growing trend across the Asia-Pacific region, which saw investments in the sector almost double to US$312 million last year, according to the GFI. Demand will only accelerate as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Mirte Gosker, acting managing director of GFI in Asia-Pacific, “as consumers in Asia and beyond seek out healthier and more secure protein sources.” He added: “Across rising economies in Asia, warning lights are flashing bright red for the future of industrial animal agriculture. “Conventional meat production is ill-equipped to handle the escalating regional pressures of skyrocketing protein demand, increased climate disruption, land and water scarcity, and threats of viral outbreaks.” Pinduoduo reported revenue growth of just 2.6 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year, its lowest annual growth, mainly caused by a drop in merchandise sales, which were introduced as “a temporary solution” to provide users with products that sellers on the platform could not provide.