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You win some, you lose some. That’s how you could sum up news this week for Beyond Meat.
The plant-based protein company announced yesterday that it would begin selling meatless fried “chicken” at more than 70 KFC locations in Charlotte, NC and Nashville, TN. This news comes roughly five months after the viral success of KFC’s one-day test of Beyond Fried Chicken at a store in Atlanta, GA.
It’s not surprising that KFC is rolling out Beyond Meat chicken at more locations. The Atlanta test drew huge crowds, attracted tons of media attention, and sold out in under five hours. Clearly there’s a demand for plant-based poultry in fast-food.
What surprised me more is how long it took KFC to begin expanding the Beyond Fried Chicken. The test was so popular, I thought that KFC/Beyond would move quickly to roll out the product, much like Burger King did after the success of the Impossible Whopper.
But then I read that the new locations will be selling Version 2.0 of the “chicken,” which is meant to look, taste, and — most importantly — pull apart like chicken breast. While the Atlanta test drew huge crowds, reviews of the actual product were pretty lackluster. Since this fried chicken is a new product for Beyond, it makes sense that they would take a step back and do some additional R&D before rolling out on a bigger scale. Especially since once the novelty wears off, they have to rely on taste alone to keep attracting buyers.
Overall I think the Beyond Fried Chicken could be a huge win for both sides of the relationship. I haven’t tried the new-and-improved plant-based chicken yet, but it’s already garnered some positive reviews. If the new rollout can continue to draw in consumers — even at a fraction of the Atlanta test — things are looking pretty golden for the Beyond Fried Chicken.
But that “if” is far from guaranteed, as is shown by some not-so-favorable news this week also concerning Beyond Meat. The day before the KFC announcement Canadian QSR chain Tim Horton’s stated that it had removed Beyond Meat’s products from all of its locations. Back in September the chain cut Beyond’s burgers from menus except in two provinces. Now they’re gone completely.
Tim Horton’s hasn’t completely closed the door on meatless meat, though. “We may offer plant-based alternatives again in the future, but we have removed it from the menu for now,” a spokesperson told Reuters. Maybe they’ll try again with a local alternative meat supplier, like Lightlife, which is owned by Canadian company Maple Leaf Foods (ironically the brand that KFC Canada used during its one-day test of plant-based chicken back in November!).
The Tim Horton’s rise and fall goes to show that just because Beyond Meat (or any plant-based meat) makes its way onto a fast-food menu, doesn’t mean it’s going to stay there. There are still a lot of pitfalls for meatless meat in QSR’s: production capacity, consumer acceptance, and pricing, for starters. When it comes to fast-food, Beyond Meat — and alternative protein as a whole — still has a lot of work to do. Developing improved product iterations is a good start.
So… are we ready to eat bugs?
In last week’s Future Food I asked the question: Should we give up on trying to make people eat bugs? Since that’s such a buzzy question (pun intended), we dove further into that topic on this week’s episode of the Food Tech Show.
You can listen to the full thing here, but overall I was surprised by how split the Spoon team was on the idea of eating creepy-crawlies. When it comes to tasting newfangled foods we’re a pretty open-minded bunch. So if you can’t even convince folks like us to give crickets a chance, how are you going to convince the average consumer who doesn’t spend all of their free time exploring what’s next in food?
We didn’t solve the whole “should we keep trying to make people eat bugs?” question in the thirty-minute podcast. But we did conclude that if insects had a prayer of entering the Western diet in a serious way, it would have to be as a ground-up powder; selling people on the idea of eating things with wings and antennae is just too buggy.
Protein ’round the web
- Trader Joe’s now has its own meatless meat burger! GroceryDive reports that “Protein Patties” are made from pea protein and beets and a 2-pack costs $4.49.
- Starbucks will release a breakfast sandwich featuring a plant-based patty sometime this year. Which brand will it be? That’s TBD.
- Denny’s is adding Beyond Meat burgers to menus of all of its 1,700 locations nationwide (h/t VegNews).
- Four in ten Americans have at least tried plant-based meat, according to a Gallup poll.
Finally, who else wants to try this bacon scratch-n-sniff patch, which is supposed to curb carnivorous cravings?