The fake meat walk continues in fast food chains nationwide, with Taco Bell the latest to join a movement that already includes its sister restaurants KFC and Pizza Hut.
Taco Bell, which has long touted its vegetarian options, but was curious to resist plant-based protein, will work with Beyond Meat on as yet unknown menu items set to launch this year.
The partners aim to “create an innovative new plant protein” that will debut as a test before potentially becoming a permanent offering, according to the restaurant, which said in a statement it was focusing on Beyond Meat “as a Category leader with a proven track record of attracting younger customers. “
Taco Bell is following in the footsteps of its siblings Yum Brands, KFC and Pizza Hut, where Beyond Meat products have proven to be a hit with consumers. KFC Expanded Chicken-Free Chicken Trial last summer, from three initial markets to more than 50 locations in Southern California. And in November, Pizza Hut became the first national pizza chain to put Beyond Meat’s faux sausage on his pies.
As part of Taco Bell’s green push and to demonstrate its “strong continuing commitment” to vegetable lovers, the brand is also bringing back potatoes, which were abandoned for a short time to streamline the menu, according to Liz Matthews, global manager food innovation.
Taco Bell’s announcement comes as consumers altered some of their eating habits during quarantine, skyrocket demand for plant-based foods in grocery stores. Americans haven’t lost their craving for meat, but a growing number of people identify as flexitarians, with some estimates indicating that plant and meat eaters could represent 70% of the population.
Although restaurants have struggled with the coronavirus closures and restrictions, many fast food chains are thriving and continuing to add more fake protein to target consumers who want to eat less animal products.
Between Beyond and its most prominent competitor, Impossible Foods, the fast food landscape in the United States is now teeming with fake meat. Chains serving plant-based burgers include Burger King, Carl’s Jr. and soon McDonald’s. Starbucks and Dunkin have launched plant-based breakfast sandwiches, and Qdoba and Chipotle have Mexican dishes made with fake meats.
Even companies that have built their brands on real meat –El Pollo Loco, for example– Now offer meatless versions of their signature food, although the California chain has created its own recipe rather than going to an outside supplier.
Restaurants on both ends of the spectrum, from high-end cafes to mom-pop dinners, have increasingly added fake meat and other plant-based products to their menus.
Beyond Meat continues to promote its pork alternatives with a free Thursday breakfast at independent restaurants in nine markets. The program, which provides take-out meals under Covid-19 restrictions, also aims to boost local small businesses.