- Chick-fil-A is looking into whether there are any plant-based protein substitutes that could support its chicken-centric menu in order to appeal to the vegan and vegetarian demographics, according to Business Insider.
- Current menu items can be ordered without meat, but the chain does not have any dedicated vegetarian or vegan menu offerings.
- Chick-fil-A plans to continue researching potential options to suit its limited offering menu through its five-stage process for vetting new products. It can take 18 to 24 months for new menu items to go from the idea stage to appearing in stores.
Chick-fil-A might be the next QSR to jump on the plant-based bandwagon and could benefit from the lack of plant-based chicken options being sold at U.S. fast food restaurants. Several plant-based companies have developed alternatives for consumers, including JUST, which plans to sell its first cultured chicken product in 2020. Impossible Foods also could be considering pork and chicken alternatives.
Experimentation in the fast food space appears to be happening mostly internationally. McDonald's launched vegan chicken nuggets at some of its restaurants in Norway, which are made from a combination of potatoes, chickpeas, onions, carrots and corn deep fried inside a bread coating, but it's unclear whether the product will debut stateside. KFC is set to offer vegan options in the U.K. this year, but the chain has not yet revealed what these items are. Within the U.S. there has yet to be any significant investments toward adding plant-based chicken products to fast food menus.
As the third-largest fast food chain in the U.S., Chick-fil-A is well positioned to spearhead efforts in the plant-based space and could set a new industry standard if it finds success. The company is known to be very careful about new product additions, focusing more time and effort on researching potential options.
Fast food companies are showing a strong willingness to dabble in plant-based protein alternatives across the board, which could create a strong incentive for companies to commit more research and development efforts to master a plant-based chicken option. Burger chains including Red Robin, White Castle, Carl's Jr., and Burger King have added plant-based burger options, while Mexican food chains such as Qdoba and Moe's Southwest Grill have also followed suit.
A number of other QSRs are also aiming to make their menus more vegan and vegetarian-friendly without relying on plant-based options. Taco Bell recently launched a vegetarian menu in its Dallas market as part of a 200-store pilot to see whether the new items, including a vegetarian Crunchwrap Supreme, are popular enough to roll out elsewhere. Panda Express plans to offer plant-based menu items for the first time in response to a petition launched by nonprofit animal rights group Vegan Outreach.