Big chains resume their plant-based crusade

Burger King and Starbucks have added new products with fake meat as the trend picks back up again.


By Jonathan Maze, Restaurant Business

Jun. 24, 2020


Remember when fake meat was all the rage? Those days appear to be back again.


This week, Starbucks somewhat surprisingly announced plans to sell an Impossible Breakfast Sandwich nationwide, made with Impossible Foods’ plant-based sausage product.


That introduction came not long after Burger King, which is staking much of its future on fake meat, made national its Impossible Croissan’wich, which the company began testing earlier this year.


The dual announcements were big victories for Impossible Foods, of course, whose CEO Patrick Brown told CNBC this week that his goal is to make the meat industry obsolete. “That’s our mission,” he said. “That transformation is inevitable.”


For restaurants, the move represents a return to something that resembles the pre-pandemic normal, when chains were stumbling all over themselves in a race to jump on the plant-based bandwagon.


That bandwagon emptied somewhat during the pandemic, as chains pulled back their marketing and held off on new product introductions to simplify operations and hoard cash.


The announcements from Burger King and Starbucks suggest a shift in that attitude. One reason might be this: Plant-based meat sales have soared during the pandemic, and especially via delivery.


According to research company Edison Trends, plant-based meat alternative sales are up 63% over the past 11 weeks, based on orders through delivery apps such as Grubhub, Uber Eats and DoorDash, compared to the previous 11 weeks.


To be sure, overall delivery orders are up, too. And there is at least some correlation between the younger consumers who are more likely to order delivery and the younger consumers interested in plant-based meat.


Yet the figures provide some evidence to back up decisions by the two fast-food giants to go big into fake meat...


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