Today’s Solutions: March 29, 2023

In China, a fast-food chain called Dicos is embracing plant-based ingredients in a very different fashion to restaurants in America.

At a fast-food restaurant like Burger King, for example, a plant-based burger is sold as an alternative to the animal version, but ultimately, customers can choose between the two options. But if you go to Dicos and order their breakfast sandwich, for instance, it will automatically come with a plant-based egg.

The restaurant chain, which has about 500 locations in China, is the first major fast-food company to outright replace items on the menu that were made with animal products with a plant-based version, rather than selling it side-by-side with the “real thing.” And they didn’t do it gradually. In one fell swoop, Dicos replaced seven different menu items with plant-based versions across all its locations.

With that said, Dicos hasn’t just eliminated meat from the menus. A breakfast burger, for instance, may serve a plant-based egg atop a sausage. But as Fast Company reports, the restaurant recognizes that even if they have meat as an ingredient, it’s still environmentally-beneficial to replace chicken eggs with plant-based ones.

The idea is to appeal more to flexitarians, who are happy to eat plant-based foods but don’t necessarily want to cut out meat entirely. In addition, Dicos is showing that menu items don’t need to be entirely vegan and that customers will accept hybrid menu items that mix vegan and non-vegan ingredients.

According to Zak Weston, a supply chain manager at the Good Food Institute, Dicos is showing that “the real market opportunity is omnivores.” Whether restaurants in America will adopt a similar approach, we will see.

As for the plant-based egg that Dicos is using, it’s a mung bean-based product called Just Egg. According to the company that produces it, Just Eat, the product has a 93 percent smaller carbon footprint and uses 98 percent less water than the animal alternative. Just Egg is available in thousands of retail stores in the US, and it’s starting to become more common in restaurants too.

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