Selected KFC outlets in China offered plant-based nuggets as part of a product trial in Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou recently in late-April.
The new product was introduced at a special price of 1.99 yuan (S$0.40) for five pieces, according to Yum China, the brand that operates KFC in China.
Presale coupons sold out within an hour of launch in Shanghai
Before customers could get their hands on the plant-based nuggets, they were required to purchase presale coupons online via KFC's mobile app.
According to Yum China, the presale coupons were sold out within an hour of launch in the city of Shanghai and over 7,000 coupons were purchased on the mobile app over four days.
As part of the product trial, it was mentioned that it was inviting people to give feedback about the novel product to improve the taste, and whether it should be expanded to a larger customer base, reported China Daily.
The nuggets apparently have a texture closer to fish meat and contain water chestnut bits.
They are made of wheat, peas and soy.
The product trial was a collaboration between KFC and Cargill Inc, a US-based company that produces, markets, and distributes meat and other products.
Joey Wat, CEO of Yum China, mentioned that the market for plant-based meat continues to grow in China:
"The test of KFC's Plant-Based Chicken Nuggets caters to the growing market in China for delicious alternative meat options on the go. We believe that testing the plant-based chicken concept with one of our most iconic products will take this increasingly popular meatless trend to a new level."
Increasing demand for plant-based meat in China
According to MarketsandMarkets, a market research firm, Covid-19 could have a positive impact on the global plant-based meat market.
The market is expected to grow from US$3.6 billion (S$5.1 billion) in 2020 to US$ 4.2 billion (S$5.94 billion) by 2021.
In addition to the increasing fear over animal-borne illnesses, the plant-based meat industry is set to grow as consumers shift towards healthier lifestyles and become more aware of the nutritional benefits of plant-based proteins.
In the case of China, the state's health ministry outlined a plan to reduce the meat consumption by 50 percent by 2030 to tackle obesity, diabetes, and environmental emissions from the livestock industry, reported Guardian.
According to Daisy Li, who is an associate director at a consultancy firm, Mintel, in China, Covid-19 could spark customer interests in safe and sustainable protein alternatives, according to China Daily.
"A mixture of factors, including urbanization, environmental impact, and a pure surge in animal protein consumption have made it practically impossible to feed the population with inexhaustible animal protein," she said. "The outbreak could effectively spark wider consumer interests in safe and sustainable protein sources, such as plant-based meat or lab-incubated meat as reliable alternatives."