- Erin Clarner
Fast Food Chains Marketing Plant-Based Alternatives
Fast food chains like McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell, etc. have been notorious for the contribution of health issues that have plagued America. Obesity, heart problems, and other chronic diseases have been linked to the constant consumption of these restaurants’ products. Additionally, evidence of animal cruelty in the factory process to produce cheap meat has surfaced over the past years, causing people to become more aware of the unsanitary conditions of their food. This exposure has impacted consumers to induce a healthier lifestyle while being more aware of what they are eating. These dietary choices include the “plant-based” option that has been taking the world by storm, mimicking meat in every way, from taste, smell, texture, and even appearance.
The influence of plant-based diets has made a sizable shift in the food industry in the past decade. The hype is centered around the idea that greens can prevent certain diseases, influence a happier/healthier lifestyle, and create better welfare for animals and agriculture. The plant-based fad has largely gravitated towards Millennial and Gen Z generations as a survey from WholeFoods Market shows that 63% of this age demographic is trying to incorporate plant-based foods into their diet.
In an attempt to prevent the potential decrease in sales of their target market, restaurant chains have started following the plant-based trend. In August of 2019, Burger King expanded their innovative menu item, the “Impossible Whopper”, to over 7,000 outlets in the U.S. with its truth-in-advertising slogan: 100% Whopper, 0% beef. The franchise saw a 10% increase in sales and praise for appealing to the vegetarian/vegan audience.
As the vegetarian community rapidly grows, the march for alternate meat sources continues as other fast food chains double down on plant-based menu items. Within the past year, the country’s most popular fast food brands have joined the movement. Pizza Hut advertised their Beyond Pan Pizzas with their recently developed partnership with Beyond Meat, a company that produces plant based substitutes; while Carl’s Jr. and White Castle have made partnerships with Beyond Meat’s rival, Impossible Foods. Additionally, starting March 11, Taco Bell will be releasing an AVA-certified vegan Spicy Potato Soft Taco and McDonalds has announced a meatless burger called the McPlant.
These seemingly non-stop promotions of new plant-based products are to help distinguish these fast food companies as mindful to the vegetarian diet within the media. However, as plant-based items continue to infiltrate fast food menus, we may not be seeing a trend, but rather a new staple to the fast food menu and how we perceive the diet and culture of modern fast food dining.