Fast food chains are finally taking vegan food seriously

  • Fast food chains are increasingly producing vegan foods as demand grows and the market explodes.
  • Restaurants doubling include Starbucks, KFC, Burger King and McDonalds.
  • But only a small part of the US and UK are vegan. Flexitarians are driving the trend.

From Starbucks waiving its non-dairy milk fee, to KFC and McDonald’s rolling out their vegan burgers nationwide, to Burger King unveiling vegan chicken nuggets, the first week of 2022 has brought many more choices for foodie fans. fast british vegans.

Big chains are finally taking vegan food seriously – even though some of the new product launches have been timed to coincide with the start of Veganuary – as they race to get a slice of a sector that could be worth more than £160 billions of dollars worldwide. next ten years.

Fast food chains in the United States are also offering more vegan dishes, but at a somewhat slower pace. Chipotle has launched its plant-based chorizo ​​nationally while other chains such as KFC, Burger King, Carl’s Jr. and McDonald’s are scrambling to partner with big fake meat brands like Impossible Foods and Beyond meat.

These products offer a significant potential prize for the fast food giants. Bloomberg intelligence reported that the plant-based foods market was worth $29.4 billion in 2020 and could reach $162 billion in 2030, or up to 7.7% of the global protein market.

The fact that vegans still represent only a small part of the population is not a problem for the sector. And that’s because vegans aren’t the only trend-drivers.

Instead, non-vegans are helping fuel the plant boom by trying to reduce their consumption of meat, fish, and dairy.

Fast food chains that have unveiled vegan products have had huge success. KFC said that its vegan burger sold at six times the average rate of new product launches when it was released in the UK. McDonald’s said early UK sales data for the McPlant was “very encouraging”, while Eat Just said its “Everything Plant-Based Sandwich” is the best-selling hot menu item at Peet’s Coffee, se selling three times more than initially expected.

“Our plant-based products have proven to be a strong sales driver in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands and continue to grow as we launch new products,” said José Cil, CEO of Restaurant Brands International, owner of Burger King, Tim Hortons. , and Popeyes, said in its latest earnings call.

Technological innovations mean that new plant-based products are becoming available, and the growing number of vegans and flexitarians is creating a booming market for plant-based meat replicas.

Low prices at fast-food chains are also helping woo customers, including those who can normally order the meaty option: McDonald’s UK charges the same for its McPlant and Quarter Pounder with cheese, and prices at Subway are the same for her roast chicken and plant-based chicken sandwiches.

In the UK, most fast food chains now offer at least one vegan dish. But some chains are leading the way by offering something most vegan consumers haven’t seen in restaurants yet: choice.

Subway, for example, now offers four vegan sandwiches on its menu, as well as two limited-release subs it launched for Veganuary. And, because it covers the basics, it was also able to get more creative: one of the new sandwiches is a plant-based alternative to chicken tikka. And Starbucks launched a plant-based tuna sandwich in the UK.

Subway tikka TLC Vegan Chicken Sandwich

Subway UK has launched a plant-based alternative to chicken tikka.

Grace Dean/Initiate


It’s a far cry from the limp salads and half-hearted bean burgers that vegans have left for years.

These factors essentially create a loop. The more demand there is for plant-based foods, the more lucrative the market is for restaurants – and as a result, they offer more vegan options at lower prices, which entices more people to try the meals .

So expect to see more and more plant-based dishes popping up on restaurant menus. And expect them to be cheaper and tastier too.


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Tanya S. Norvell