More fast food chains putting plant-based dishes on menu
Two of the top fast food chains in the U.S. are jumping on the plant-based bandwagon with dishes that look like chicken but are fowl-free.
The everything chicken everyday — except on Sunday — Chick-fil-A said that it’s testing its first plant-based entrée — a breaded cauliflower sandwich — at restaurants in Denver; Charleston, South Carolina; and the Greensboro, North Carolina, area. The test began Feb. 13.
Meanwhile, the Chicago-based Mickey Ds is introducing plant-based McNuggets next week. Germany will be the first market to get them.
Chick-fil-A said its culinary team spent four years developing the sandwich after guests told the chain they wanted to add more vegetables to their diets. Chick-fil-A tested mushrooms, chickpeas and chopped vegetables formed into patties but kept returning to cauliflower for its mild flavor.
Like Chick-fil-A’s signature chicken sandwich, the cauliflower steak is marinated, breaded, pressure-cooked and then served on a bun with two pickle slices.
Chick-fil-A is a relative latecomer to the plant-based fast food scene. Burger King started selling its Impossible Whopper — featuring a plant-based burger made by Impossible Foods — in 2019. Starbucks launched an Impossible sausage sandwich in 2020.
McDonald’s debuted its McPlant burger — developed with Beyond Meat — in the United Kingdom in 2021. And KFC began selling Beyond Meat nuggets last year.
For the fast food giant that got a foothold on U.S. stomachs with hamburgers and cheeseburgers, its McPlant Nuggets — made from peas, corn and wheat with a tempura batter — are the second product McDonald’s has co-developed with Beyond Meat, an El Segundo, California-based maker of plant-based meats. McDonald’s has been selling a McPlant burger since 2021.
McDonald’s said the nationwide nugget rollout to more than 1,400 restaurants in Germany follows a limited-time test at nine restaurants in the Stuttgart area in August. McDonald’s will also start selling the McPlant burger in Germany next week.
Availability of the McPlant nuggets and burger in future markets will depend on customer demand, McDonald’s said.
European customers have generally been more receptive to McDonald’s plant-based meat products than those in the U.S. The McPlant burger is now a permanent menu item in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Austria and the Netherlands. Last month, McDonald’s rolled out the Double McPlant burger in the U.K. and Ireland.
But in the U.S., McDonald’s ended a test of the McPlant burger last summer without announcing any future plans for its sale.
Beyond Meat began selling plant-based chicken in U.S. groceries in 2021. It has also co-developed plant-based tenders and nuggets with other chains, including KFC and Panda Express.
According to VegNews, a magazine covering the vegan lifestyle, a report "State of the Plant-Based in Foodservice" by the Plant Based Food Association showed nearly half (48.4 percent) of U.S. restaurants now offer plant-based options, representing a 62-percent growth since 2012.
Burger King, White Castle, and Carl’s Jr. were among the first to offer plant-based meat burgers made by giants Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat. Now, VegNews said, a wide variety of national burger chains—from Red Robin to Fuddruckers—offer at least one plant-based burger option.
Other fast food and fast casual eateries placing vegan dishes, or other meat-alternative dishes on their menus include Taco Bell, Del Taco, KFC, Wendy's, Panda Express, Chipotle and Starbucks.
VegNews also said the PBFA also found that restaurants in the West were most likely to call-out descriptors such as “vegan,” “dairy-free,” and “vegetarian” on menus, while eateries in the South are least likely to emphasize these terms. The Northeast is the most likely to call out the term “meatless” on menus.
The term “plant-based” is called out on 5 percent of menus across the country, however this term has experienced the most growth. Who is most interested in plant-based options? According to PBFA, one-third of Americans have an affinity with the term “plant-based,” with interest skewing toward millennial and Gen Z women in Asian and Black demographics.