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  • Tao Zhang

Dao Foods Shares China Consumer Insights at HBS Climate Symposium

I was recently honored to speak and shared insights and experience on how to turn Chinese mainstream consumers into part of the global climate solution at the 2022 annual HBS Climate Symposium. The Symposium is a student-run conference at Harvard Business School that engages various stakeholders to tackle climate together.

Speaking on the Consumer Driven Sustainability panel, we dove into how consumers are the driving force behind the proliferation of startups creating more sustainable consumer products and the transition to more sustainability commitments by larger traditional consumer product companies.

Alternative proteins were one of the main subjects discussed at the HBS Climate Symposium this year. Aside from Dao Foods, representatives from Change Foods and the Good Food Institute spoke at another panel called The Future of Food, where they discussed the crucial role alternative proteins play in combating climate change and the technological innovations happening in the sector.

I shared with the audience how entrepreneurship in alternative proteins, if steered correctly, could effectively engage Chinese mainstream consumers, especially the younger-generation ones, to help contribute to global climate efforts.

The alternative protein sector is still quite nascent in China. Although momentum has been building up in this sector over the past two years, mainstream consumer knowledge and adoption of new protein products are far from there. The game changers will be those entrepreneurs who know how to conquer the stomachs and minds of China's mainstream consumers.

So far, Dao Foods has recruited three cohorts of startup ventures encompassing the country's various alternative protein products and services, including plant-based meat, plant-based ready-to-eat foods, plant-based dairy, plant-based protein drinks for children, plant-based bakery, plant-based snack foods, plant-based seafood, biomass and precision fermentation ingredients, and cell-based meat.

A notable example of how alternative protein ventures can help convert mainstream consumers is Dao Foods' first China investment, Starfield Food and Science Technology Limited, a Shenzhen-based food technology company that is considered mainland China's fastest-growing and best-financed next-gen plant-based venture and already has had a presence in over 40,000 restaurant and retail outlets in China, including KFC, FamilyMart, Luckin Coffee, Seven Eleven, Sam's Club, Dicos, and HeyTea.

In addition to an investment portfolio of close to 20 alternative protein ventures, Dao Foods is helping to build the ecosystem for China's alternative protein sector through its China Next-Gen Good Food Bootcamp initiative. In August 2019, Dao Foods International launched the multi-city Next-Gen Good Food Bootcamp in Shanghai, followed by Beijing later that year and four ensuing Bootcamps in various Chinese cities from 2020 to 2022. Dao Foods plans to launch its 7th Bootcamp in January 2023, focusing on the Yangtze Delta region in collaboration with a local municipal government in China's Jiangsu Province.

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