Pinduoduo embarks on first-of-its-kind study into plant-based meats

Pinduoduo has teamed up with researchers to study the impact of plant-based meat on human health as China’s largest agriculture platform deepens its push into agrifood tech as part of efforts to modernize the agriculture food system.

Researchers at SIFBI, part of Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), will survey subjects for comparative studies examining the nutritional and health impact of substituting traditional animal proteins with plant-based proteins. The study will be the first of its kind to focus specifically on novel plant-based meats, setting it apart from broader research on plant-based diets.

The announcement comes on the back of first-quarter results that showed Pinduoduo had surpassed 800 million users in record time, reinforcing its position as the leading agriculture and grocery retail platform in China.

“Our growing scale gives us both a greater capacity to live up to our mission to ‘benefit all’, and responsibility to do so,” Chen Lei, Pinduoduo Chairman and CEO, said on a conference call. “In deliberating our actions, we constantly think about how we can best marshal our resources and reach to catalyze improvements and bring more benefit to society.”

Chen added that Pinduoduo must “seize the golden opportunity to transform and modernize the agri-food system” as it works towards its goal of becoming the world’s largest agriculture and grocery platform.

“In addition to improving the efficiency and cost structure of today’s agriculture industry, we are also committed to helping consumers adopt healthier and more environmentally sustainable diets and making improvements at all links of the supply chain,” he said.

The growing popularity of a new generation of plant-based proteins has been held out as part of the solution to improving health and reducing the environmental impact of animal agriculture, which has drawn increasing scrutiny over its greenhouse gas emissions and use of land and water.

“As Asian consumers become more educated and affluent, and hence demand more plant-based proteins, many food and nutrition companies are responding by developing alternative protein food products,” said Professor Christiani Jeyakumar Henry, Senior Advisor at SIFBI and Principal Investigator for the study.

“Human nutrition is a complex field, and we need more studies that look holistically at the nutritional impact of these food products over time, to inform the food industry of its potential benefits or the need for reformulation,” he said.

The nutrition study is one of many research partnerships that Pinduoduo is working on in the areas of agriculture and food technology.

The new study comes in the wake of a report by Chinese researchers that urged Chinese consumers to eat less meat. A reduction in agri-food sector GHG emissions would be crucial for China to meet its target to achieve peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060, according to the 2021 China and Global Food Policy Report.

Earlier this month, China issued a guideline to encourage social investment in various agricultural sectors to boost the rural economy and spur agricultural modernization. The sectors include modern planting and breeding, farm produce processing and circulation, agricultural technological innovation, smart agriculture, nurturing agricultural talents and rural infrastructure.

Pinduoduo has said it is actively evaluating global opportunities in areas including alternative proteins, food safety and precision farming. The company organizes an annual Smart Agriculture Competition to demonstrate the potential for agritech to improve agricultural productivity.

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