The immense success of Beyond Meat and its historic IPO has led other plant-based brands to pursue similar strategies of partnering with fast-food chains and restaurants to market and distribute their products. In this sense the companies are able to focus on creating the best product while the restaurants do the heavy lifting and marketing to the consumer. Although Beyond Meat is now widely available in retail stores and has became a household name, its success was spurred by restaurant chains like A&W who bought, marketed and sold the product to the consumer.
In 2020, the plant-based food sector experienced average growth of 148% across all categories while plant-based burgers, nuggets and sausages saw the fastest growth of 241% compared to 2019.
Various restaurant chains in the UAE, Saudi, Qatar and Kuwait are now importing and serving Beyond Meat burgers to their customers which leaves a clear opportunity for local manufacturers to supply and capitalize on this growing market.
In the UAE, sales of Beyond Meat burgers have increased dramatically after COVID-19. According to Al Arabiya English, “More customers are opting or vegan food, and the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating the trend.”
Local Food expert Fabrice Vriens and brand manager for Bareburger Restaurant in the UAE, revealed that more diners are opting for plant-based meat options as it is a healthier and cleaner option. He said: “The COVID-19 crisis is pretty much associated with the consumption of animal meat and has created virusphobia.”
“We believe that is the main reason that consumers are increasing their plant-based food consumption. We have seen a rise in the share of Beyond Meat and vegan offerings in our total sales.”
Mr. Vriens added that while the brand noticed that flexitarian diets were on the rise last year, the coronavirus pandemic ‘has driven more of their customers towards their plant-based options.’ Vegan burger in the Dubai outlet sales have increased from 35 percent in January to 50 percent of all burgers sold now.
Below are some examples of how plant-based meat manufacturers in North America are partnering with food chains to achieve similar success with their products:
Customers lined up at a KFC in Atlanta to be among the first to try Beyond Fried Chicken, a plant-based option made in partnership with Beyond Meat.
In 2019 Beyond Meat partnered with KFC to bring their plant-based chicken to consumers in Atlanta. The product was an instantaneous hit, selling out in a single day.
According to a representative from KFC, in about five hours the restaurant sold as many plant-based boneless wings and nuggets as it would sell of its popular popcorn chicken in an entire week. (A “Kentucky Fried Miracle,” the company declared.)
With the test, KFC joined several other major fast-food companies in making meat alternatives more mainstream. Most are using either Beyond Meat’s products or those made by Impossible Foods to replace the meat in their most popular products such as The Burger King Whopper, The White Castle Slider or The A&W Mozza Burger.
Is the idea to turn everyone into a vegetarian? No – but studies have shown that eating less meat could help both the environment and our health, and that could be making people a little more interested in cutting back – especially in a post-COVID world.
“Our target customers for this product were flexitarians looking to incorporate plant-based choices into their diets,” the KFC representative said.
Burger King launched its plant-based Impossible Whopper in St. Louis in April 2019 which led to the best Q3 sales results for the company since 2015.
Following its immense success, Burger King expanded distribution to locations across the entire USA. The launch of the burger increased Burger King’s revenue by 10 % in 2019 and led to an increase in footfall by 4%, compared to McDonalds in the same year which did not launch a plant-based option. The Impossible Whopper by Impossible Foods, tapped as the “100% Whopper, 0% Beef,” features a flame-grilled patty topped with tomatoes, onions, lettuce, mayonnaise, ketchup and pickles on a sesame seed bun. The sandwich is 630 calories, contains 34 grams of fat and 25 grams of protein, according to nutritional information on Burger King’s website. (A regular Whopper has 660 calories, 40 grams of fat and 28 grams of protein).
A&W was one of the first multinational food chains to introduce the Beyond Burger to the masses in the USA and Canada in 2018. The restaurant chain which targeted flexitarians with the roll out of a plant-based offering has attributed this innovation to a growth in sales of 10.3% as new customers walk through its doors and meat loving consumers were offered a healthier and guilt free burger option to chose from.
A&W captured a significant portion of market share from its major competitors in early 2018 being the only company to offer a plant-based offering. In doing so the perception of the A&W brand was elevated with this pioneering and innovative move which elevated the brand status to that of a premium, healthier and more sustainable food offering.
The Tennessee-based burger chain, Carl’s Jr, launched its plant-based burger under the name “Beyond Famous Star® With Cheese” in partnership with Beyond Meat in December 2018.
After its widespread success at U.S. locations distribution was expanded into Canada.
The Beyond Famous Star features the Beyond BurgerTM quarter-pound patty topped with melted American cheese, lettuce, tomato, sliced onions, dill pickles, special sauce and mayonnaise on a seeded bun. The patty is cooked top-to-bottom and is made without GMOs, gluten and soy and has lower saturated fat than regular beef, but still delivers the typical
Carl’s Jr flame-broiled flavor and 20 grams of protein.
Pizza joints are also cashing in on the plant-based frenzy – Little Caesars, the pizza chain for meat-centric consumers, also teamed up with Impossible Foods last year to offer a plant-based sausage tagged as “The Impossible Supreme Pizza.”
The pizza features meatless sausage crumbles in addition to mushrooms, caramelized onions and green pepper toppings.
The 1⁄4-pound serving of the Impossible Foods sausage has 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 17 grams of protein and 270 calories, compared to a
quarter-pound of beef sausage has about 70 milligrams of cholesterol, 14 grams of protein and 340 calories.
In July 2019, Dunkin’ (together with Beyond Meat) introduced the Beyond Breakfast Sausage into their Manhattan restaurants and it soon rose to the list of their top-selling products.
The patty is made with 100% plant-based proteins and a mix of spices crafted especially for Dunkin’ – served on an English muffin with egg and American cheese. It features 10 grams of plant-based protein, 29% less total fat, 33% less saturated fat and fewer calories, cholesterol and sodium compared to a traditional Dunkin’ Sausage, Egg and Cheese Breakfast Sandwich on an English muffin.
Qdoba, one of the largest Mexican fast food restaurants in the USA, has announced that it will be rolling out its plant-based menus across 730 locations in the U.S. in partnership with Impossible Foods.
The plant-based protein, which Qdoba said tastes and cooks like beef, is seasoned in the restaurant. It features two chef-inspired creations namely: QDOBA Impossible Bowl and QDOBA Impossible Taco.
White Castle was aggressive with its launch of the Impossible Slider in 140 locations in New York and New Jersey in 2018 and has now expanding its distribution to over 750 outlets nationwide based on its immense success.
The Impossible Slider’s new recipe was unveiled at CES 2019 in Las Vegas where it won several awards including “Most Unexpected Product” and “Most Impactful Product” to name a few.
The slider comes with smoked Cheddar cheese and has 240 calories with 11 grams of protein. White Castle does not offer a vegan cheese for the slider, but said it was working to find an option.