Today’s Solutions: December 08, 2023

As the world continues to focus on strategies to reduce carbon emissions and our impact on the environment, plant-based fast food is gaining more traction across the restaurant industry.

The presence of new companies such as California-based Plant Power Fast Food is propelling the concept of plant-based eating as the “way of the future,” and is gearing up to expand across the state and beyond.

Plant Power Fast Food hopes to “bring a fast-food experience without any worries regarding cross-contamination, animal-based ingredient, and substitution,” saying that ideally, “any plant-based consumer can walk in and eat anything on the menu.”

They are also gearing up to compete with established fast-food giants such as Burger King and McDonald’s, both of which have experienced successful trials of plant-based alternatives (Impossible and Beyond burgers respectively).

Burger King has already rolled out its meatless Impossible Whopper to all its 7,200 branches in the US and is currently trialing Impossible nuggets as an alternative to chicken. McDonald’s also introduced its plant-based burger patties and has recently announced that the McPlant will be rolled out to selected markets before the end of the year.

Other fast-food chains such as Del Taco and Taco Bell have also begun offering plant-based taco meat for its tacos and burritos, and popular Chinese food takeout restaurant Panda Express has expanded its rollout of the plant-based version of their most popular item, orange chicken. The introduction of the Beyond Meat vegan orange chicken went exceedingly well, and it became the chain’s most popular new offering since 1987.

“We received an overwhelmingly positive guest response when we introduced Beyond the Original Orange Chicken at selected locations earlier this year,” Panda Express’ Executive Director of Culinary Innovation Jimmy Wang told QSR. “It’s one of Panda’s most successful regional launches to date, which further reinforces the desire we’re seeing from our guests for more diverse and plant-based options.”

It’s encouraging to see that plant-based options are not only being well received but are actually in high demand, however, the rest of the fast-food industry has to catch up, as a World Animal Protection report from this month found that the vast majority of fast-food chains still don’t offer vegan options. Of the 50 restaurants included in the report, 43 of them still lacked vegan food items.

Some possible reasons for this could be the myths that surround plant-based eating, such as lack of protein or unsatisfactory texture. Skeptics will also say that many of the plant-based fast-food alternatives aren’t even healthier than their meaty counterparts, which is often true if you’re looking at the calories and nutrition value. However, the driving force for fast-food chains to offer more plant-based options isn’t necessarily health-based, but rather ethical and environmental.

Still, it’s clear that people are keeping their eye out for plant-based options, which speaks volumes about the collective shift towards a more harmonious existence with the planet. In the words of co-founder and chief executive officer of Plant Power Fast Food Jeffrey Harris, “The massive growth that we’ve experienced since we started in 2016 is proof that the time is right for a major 100 percent plant-based, cruelty-free, sustainable, and healthier option in the fast-food segment.”

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