Do US fast-food customers want plant-based meat?

Do Americans want plant-based options at fast-food restaurants

ByDEE-ANN DURBIN AP business writer
July 3, 2024, 11:59 AM

Do Americans want plant-based options at fast-food restaurants? Two recent moves show restaurant chains are still undecided.

On Wednesday, Panda Express said it is reintroducing plant-based chicken – which it developed with El Segundo, California-based Beyond Meat – at hundreds of U.S. stores. Beyond Orange Chicken will be available for a limited time, Panda Express said.

But last week, McDonald’s revealed it has pulled the plug in the U.S. on the McPlant, the plant-based burger it co-developed with Beyond Meat. During an appearance at the Wall Street Journal’s Global Food Forum, McDonald’s U.S. President Joe Erlinger said the company’s 2022 test of the McPlant at stores in San Francisco and Dallas was “not successful in either market.”

“I don’t think the U.S. consumer is… looking for the McPlant or other plant-based proteins from McDonald’s,” Erlinger said.

The McPlant has seen more success in Europe, where consumers are much more receptive to ordering plant-based products at a McDonald’s. The McPlant is now a permanent menu item in the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands and other markets, and McDonald’s introduced plant-based McNuggets – also developed with Beyond Meat – in Europe last year.

Erlinger said McDonald’s will keep an eye on plant-based trends, but prefers to focus on chicken in the U.S. right now.

Still, Panda Express is bullish about plant-based meat. It first tested Beyond Orange Chicken in 2021 and rolled it out nationally for a limited time in 2022.

“We’ve never received so many social media comments begging for an entree’s return,” a Panda Express spokesperson said. The company said fans even started a petition asking the company to bring the dish back.

“If our fans continue to love and demand it, there’s potential to expand availability,” the Rosemead, California-based company said.

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