- KFC is meeting with a number of plant-based meat product developers to explore the possibility of developing a vegan chicken option, reports Business Insider.
- The restaurant has already begun piloting vegetarian "fried chicken" in the U.K.
- No major US. chicken chains have launched a plant-based chicken substitute yet, but Chick-fil-A is also exploring adding vegan fare to its menu.
Given the momentum that beef alternatives have achieved in the restaurant space, it make sense that chicken chains are eyeing opportunities for plant-based poultry. McDonald's offers vegan chicken nuggets at some of its Norwegian locations, but beyond that chains haven't introduced chicken substitutes on par with the meatless "beef" burgers that are taking the industry by storm.
KFC parent Yum Brands has deep pockets to help it secure the best plant-based poultry substitute, whether that means in-house R&D efforts or landing the first major chicken deal with Impossible Foods or Beyond Meat. The major hold up for companies wanting to source plant-based poultry is that these heavy hitters simply haven't invented it yet. It's possible that interest from these restaurants could give smaller plant-based producers room to partner with some of these big brands, but the benefit of name recognition for both Impossible and Beyond may trump that.
There are challenges that come with plant-based products, however. Restaurants that source Impossible Foods to satisfy their consumers' plant-based fix are grappling with Impossible Foods' major shortages of its Impossible Burger. The warnings came shortly before the company gained $300 million in new funding, which it will put toward bolstering production. Inconsistent supply lines put QSRs in a pinch and force them to deal with dissatisfied customers who may have come to the chain just to see what all the plant-based hype was about — a risk chains would be wise to consider.
Not everyone is on board with the plant-based craze, however. Arby's recently released an official statement saying it has no plans to source plant-based products for its menu items, dispelling rumors that it was reaching out to plant-based meat companies. Meanwhile, McDonald's has stayed out of the plant-based fray despite countless outlets asking the QSR giant why it's opting for the sidelines despite the clear consumer demand. During the company's recent shareholders meeting, executives indicated that the company is keeping an eye on the plant-based space. It's possible that KFC and Chick-fil-A could be on the sidelines too for a while, given supply shortages and lack of major plant-based chicken products. But when one of them does take the leap, it's likely other chicken chains will follow.