- Del Taco sold 2 million plant-based tacos containing Beyond Meat’s crumbles in less than two months, according to Business Insider. The company is now adding Beyond Burritos to its menu, including an option that’s stuffed with french fries.
- This week, Taco Bell announced that it will not be adding plant-based fare to its menu, deciding instead to focus on bolstering its own vegetarian menu options after meeting with both Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, according to CNBC. The chain plans to launch its vegetarian menu, which has been testing, nationwide this fall.
- Currently, 9% of Taco Bell’s menu is vegetarian, and consumers can swap out meat for beans in any menu item.
The fast food world has been hyper-focused on the battle of plant-based burgers as chain after chain adds some type of alternative protein to its menu. Now, the Mexican QSR segment is taking a bite out of the plant-based trend in response to growing consumer demand. The shift is unsurprising, given that 39% of Americans are trying to eat more plant-based foods and the number of vegans in the U.S. has increased 600% in the last three years alone.
Taco Bell’s decision to stay on the sidelines, for now, is a bold one considering the leve of demand Del Taco experienced in such a short window of time. Qdoba Mexican Eats is also testing plant-based protein through a partnership with Impossible Foods. But Taco Bell isn't alone in it’s objection to the plant-based meat craze, with Arby’s recently announcing that it will never serve fake meat.
McDonald’s also has a notable lack of momentum on plant-based proteins. The chain, which is arguably the most successful of any QSR in the world, has added a few vegan and vegetarian items at international locations, but has yet to answer to domestic demand for alternative proteins.
There is no clear explanation for Taco Bell’s decision to snub both Impossible and Beyond, but the brand could be waiting to see whether the plant-based buzz is here to stay or simply a fad. Offering vegetarian options gives Taco Bell some foothold in the meatless offerings market without requiring it to go through the investment, adjustment and launch of entirely new products.
The most popular meatless meat options are also having trouble meeting market demand. Impossible Foods recently experienced a shortage of its Impossible Burger after partnering with Burger King, and reports surfaced recently that Red Robin and White Castle are suffering shortages as well, even after the plant-based brand raised $300 million to help production. Beyond Meat also named several production risk factors in its IPO prospectus, so Taco Bell could also be waiting for these suppliers to stabilize.