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Quick service restaurants (QSRs) can read the tea leaves: consumers want more tasty, meatless options. The month after it put the Impossible Whopper on St. Louis store menus, Burger King reported an 18 percent increase in foot traffic. Del Taco’s introduction of the Beyond Meat tacos was one of the chain’s most successful product launches ever.
It’s a smart play for fast-food joints to embrace plant-based meat, allowing them to:
- Attract new customers who might not otherwise opt to eat at the restaurant
- Draw back lapsed customers who might have pivoted away from fast-food to embrace a more plant-based diet
- Boost their brand and frame themselves as an innovator.
With all this action, it can be hard to keep track of which chains are serving which meat alternatives. Who’s got the Impossible patty? Which spots are hitching their horse to Beyond Meat? Which restaurants have yet to make a move, and is anybody rejecting meat alternatives altogether? (Cough, Arby’s, cough.)
It’s a lot to keep straight. Thankfully, we drew up a handy one-sheet outlining which QSR’s are lining up behind which meat alternatives. Check out the full piece for details, then go order a vegan combo meal.
Beefing up the portfolio
Big Food is going whole-hog on plant-based meat investment.
Tyson, the world’s second-largest meat processor, made headlines when they decided to invest in Beyond Meat. (It has since cut ties, but that’s a different story.) Major Canadian packaged meat company Maple Leaf Foods acquired vegan meat veterans Field Roast and Lightlife Foods and has plans to build the largest plant-based protein factory in North America. Late last year, Unilever snapped up Dutch startup the Vegetarian Butcher.
This week that list got a little longer when the owners of Jensen Meat Company, a ground beef processor, acquired meatless meat startup Before the Butcher. It’s a textbook symbiotic relationship. Big Beef gets to diversify its portfolio and carve out a chunk of the white-hot alterna-meat market. Before the Butcher gains access to more capital and bigger production facilities, which can help the startup scale and differentiate itself in the crowded plant-based protein market.
Win, win. Expect to see quite a few more of these type of acquisitions coming around the curve. But also expect to see some consumer pushback against big meat companies coming in and sticking their noses (and pocketbooks) into the alterna-meat space.
Protein new ’round the web
- Food tech startup JUST will soon start manufacturing their plant-based eggs in Asia for the first time, thanks to a partnership with South Korean egg producer GanongBio (h/t FoodNavigator).
- Moving Mountains, the U.K.-based startup who makes a “bleeding” vegan burger, just added hot dogs to their lineup. A Washington Post reporter gave them a try and decided they cut the mustard.
- Will oat and almond milk be usurped by the newest dairy alternative: water lentil milk? VegNews says maybe, but I say not until they can land on a more appetizing name.
In the spirit of research and summertime I grilled up a few Beyond Meat burger patties and sausage links last night. Look out for a meatless meat grilling guide coming at you soon.