- Taco Bell is launching its vegetarian menu in the Dallas metro area on April 4, according to multiple reports. The pilot will include about 200 stores, or 60% of the area's locations, according to Skift Table. The QSR chain aims to begin a national rollout of the menu in late 2019 or early next year, according to Forbes.
- The menu includes two new items, the Vegetarian Crunchwrap Supreme and the Vegetarian Quesarito, as well as its 7-Layer Burrito.
- Taco Bell already sells 350 million vegetarian items per year, and around 9% of all items ordered at Taco Bell are vegetarian by default or through substitutions, according to Skift Table.
Taco Bell first announced its plans for a vegetarian menu in January, and it will be interesting to see how its two dedicated menu items perform — especially since the Mexican chain is already fairly user-friendly for diners seeking plant-based fare.
The fact that these items are American Vegetarian Associated certified could help solidify Taco Bell's image as a vegetarian-friendly chain and drive further growth. Between 2017 and 2018, the amount of vegetarian items ordered at Taco Bell rose by 2%, according to Forbes.
The move comes as consumer demand for plant-based food reaches an all-time high. A 2016 Nielsen Global Survey, for example, found 39% of American consumers look for plant-based foods when shopping. The plant-based food market is also valued at over $3.7 billion. With those figures in mind, the Mexican fast food chain could score big if it implemented its new additions to its entire U.S. footprint, especially since it's already a few steps ahead of competitors.
While Qdoba and Del Taco have joined the plant-based food craze, the former has only 750 locations in North America — including Canada — and Del Taco only recently partnered with Beyond Meat to sell meatless chorizo tacos. Plant-based offerings are ramping up outside of the Mexican QSR space, however, with Burger King testing plant-based products at select stores. The fast food giant's deal with Impossible Foods make it the largest restaurant chain to carry the Impossible Burger.
For now, Taco Bell is staying competitive with its vegetarian-market strategy — even its mobile app has a "make it meatless" feature. To top that, its bean burrito has long been the QSR's second top-selling item, Taco Bell Chief Food Innovation Officer Liz Matthews told Skift Table.