Accor Live Limitless and Zrou launched a partnership on July 15 to bring innovation to the dining and hospitality arena. Accor-branded hotels – including Raffles, Fairmont, Sofitel, Pullman, Swissôtel, Grand Mercure and Novotel – will roll out plant-based protein menus featuring Zrou dishes in the coming months.
To mark the launch of this historic movement towards sustainable and healthy options for hotel guests across the nation, Accor Greater China CEO Gary Rosen and Zrou Founder and CEO Franklin Yao came together at the Fairmont Peace Hotel Shanghai for the first of many Table Number Zrou that will take place. Signature Zrou dishes can now be tasted at the Fairmont Peace Shanghai, Fairmont Chengdu and Sofitel Kunming, with many more to follow.
The rollout will start with breakfast implementation – a meal associated with comfort food – that is also most commonly eaten by guests in hotels. The focus will be placed on health, sustainability and co-creation between the Zrou chef team and the hotels’ chefs at all seven hotel brand locations to tailor menus to fit each hotel’s style and ambiance.
“Co-creating and collaboration are at the core of both the Zrou brand and Accor, so the goal is to work together to bring unique innovation to guests through sustainable practices,” says co-founder and Chief Creative Officer, David Laris.
Gary Rosen & Franklin Yao
We sat down with Accor Greater China CEO Gary Rosen and Zrou Founder and CEO Franklin Yao to learn more about this partnership and how it will continue to develop in the future. The main takeaway is that Zrou has become more than just a plant-based protein. Now it’s an avenue through which people can imagine a better self, a healthier lifestyle and a more sustainable world – and that’s what this partnership with Accor is all about.
What has been the biggest/most unexpected challenge starting a plant-based protein company in China? And what has been the biggest surprise?
Franklin: We started Zrou actually from zero. It wasn’t like starting in Singapore, New York or London, where there’s already an apparent movement for plant-based, sustainable proteins. In China, we had to first build the market and educate people to change their perceptions before even coming to market with the actual product. Some people associate these products with being highly processed and therefore unnatural, but at Zrou, we emphasize a clean protein, so we had to build our own story from scratch.
On the flip side, when we first started working on recipes with Zrou, we thought of typical dishes, like dandan mian, dumplings, zhajiang mian, etc., but the chef community has embraced the product so thoroughly that we are now seeing it in everything from tacos to pizzas, from salads to desserts. It has become an inspiration and the oil for a canvas that stellar chefs are using to create beautiful dishes.
Zrou doesn’t belong to us anymore; it belongs to China, the community and the chefs that work with the product. The community took up the brand and really brought their heart and passion in supporting and encouraging us. This is our biggest motivator for continuing to develop more in the future.
Why have you chosen to partner with Zrou for the hotel's first plant-based protein collaboration as opposed to other (predominantly imported) brands?
Gary: From a lifestyle standpoint, we are the largest global lifestyle player in the world. And, at the root of lifestyle is food and beverage. Zrou comes with a passion and an emotion that is driven from the founders and transcends throughout the company and into the product. You can really feel that. They are paving the way, and creating their own narrative, and we really admire that.
There’s a natural value alignment that became apparent from the get go. This is partially due to the fact that they aren’t risk averse to doing something outside of the norm in China. We look at opportunity as fuel that defines where consumers are going to recognize the options they have and how it fits in their daily life. It’s all about delivering the highest quality experience, and we share that commonality in vision with Zrou.
I hope that what we are doing with Zrou sets a new tone for what people expect of partnerships – two companies building something together that share a common vision for the future. When you identify something that really could change paradigms and enhance peoples’ lives, it’s a good thing to be a part of. I hope that this partnership with Zrou inspires other companies to push the boundaries and to do what’s best for their consumers and the planet.
Where do you see the plant-based protein trend going in China? Do you think it will eventually gain popularity in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, or that it will face resistance from those that believe it undermines the traditional meat-based diets of some regions of China?
Franklin: I’ve spent more than 90 days in Chengdu this year already, exploring the food culture and figuring out how Zrou can position itself for success there. We are working on rolling out Zrou menus in all of these high-end, foodie restaurants with top chefs from major cities in Chengdu, Beijing, Kunming, Suzhou, Wuxi, Ningbo, Hangzhou, etc., and the chefs and restaurants are embracing the product with open arms.
Next week we have a dinner at the Fairmont in Chengdu with guests from the Sichuan tourism and hospitality industry, and they are very open and curious to try Zrou, especially with our planned baijiu pairings.
How will Zrou products be included in future Accor events, dining and programs, and how does it align with the core values of the Accor program?
Gary: We plan to use Zrou products throughout our high end luxury, premium and mid-tier hotels, affording guests the chance to taste something they wouldn’t necessarily try. Whether this product acts as a way for people to sustain a life that balances health and wellness with enjoyment, or is a new discovery that kick-starts a fresh approach to wellness, we want to offer the option that supports people in become healthier and aware of their own personal wellness as a part of their daily lifestyle.
In terms of core values, Zrou really fits in with our whole approach to corporate social responsibility. The quality of the ingredients speaks to the clean movement. We sit at the forefront of leading this country towards more social responsibility, and this helps tie that in with the food and beverage side of our hotels. There will always be a need for food that really takes care of the body and soul, and Zrou acts as such an incredible ingredient that adds value to our chefs’ already existing creativity.
About Accor and ALL - Accor Live Limitless
Accor believes that living a full life is not limited to memories made while on vacation, celebrating anniversaries or achieving milestones. Accor’s lifestyle loyalty program ALL – Accor Live Limitless is a companion for every little daily delight, as we understand that an accumulation of small jewel-like events adds up to a lifetime of treasured moments.
ALL is a way of living that encompasses a range of instances through singular accommodations, restaurants, bars, meetings, events, and experiences, which gathers the diversified Accor brands and enhances their products, services and partnerships. Through ALL, the most engaged members obtain meaningful experiences and rewards for work, play and life beyond hotel stays - both at home and across the globe.
ALLDining, as a key part of Accor Live Limitless, invites ALL members to get the most out of every day indulgences at restaurants and lounges across Accor hotels in Greater China. From dining at restaurants or lounges to takeaways and in-room dining services, members are entitled ALL Dining Rewards Points. Reward Points can be earned daily, even without a hotel stay.
Founded in 2019, YouKuai Group International, Zrou’s parent company, aims to create a holistic plant-based food and beverage ecosystem in China and to reshape the global plant-based cuisine landscape, starting with Chinese consumers both locally and regionally. The Company’s purpose is to create a world worth inheriting for future generations through protein diversification. With more brands to come, YouKuai's current portfolio includes plant-based meat brand Zrou with multiple product lines, and sustainable lifestyle content media brand OwnWhatYouEat.
[All images provided by Accor]