- KFC is expanding its test of its vegan Beyond Fried Chicken to select restaurants in Charlotte, North Carolina and Nashville, Tennessee and surrounding markets, according to a company release.
- The item will be available beginning Feb. 3 through Feb. 23, or while supplies last. Beyond Fried Chicken will come with a dipping sauce or tossed with Honey BBQ, Buffalo or Nashville hot.
- The announcement follows KFC's initial pilot with Beyond Meat last summer at an Atlanta store, which sold out its entire reserve of Beyond Fried Chicken in less than five hours.
Plant-based products are becoming a bigger interest for Yum Brands over the last few months, and with good reason: The initial Beyond Fried Chicken test generated 2 billion media impressions. Yum Brands CEO David Gibbs hinted during the company's Q3 earnings call in October that more is to come from plant-based alternatives.
Earlier this week, Yum Brands' newly acquired Habit Burger brand announced that it will also experiment with plant-based fare through a limited-time offering of the Impossible Burger. The chain plans to launch the new menu in the second half of 2020, according to Reuters.
The Habit Burger put the Impossible Burger on menus in 2018, with initial tests showing that it didn't impact sales of its existing veggie burger because beef customers were looking for alternative products. But in 2019 "it was impossible to secure supply chain," CEO Russ Bendel said during an October earnings call. In May 2019, Impossible secured $300 million in funding to scale production and solve its spotty supply issues, which had left both independent operators and major chains including White Castle and Red Robin in a bind.
The burger chain's test marks Yum's third partnership with a plant-based meat producer, as well. Last year, Pizza Hut tested a vegan sausage topping called Incogmeato, a product made by Morningstar Farms.
Faux red meat, and especially vegan burgers, has a more proven track record with consumers, but Yum Brands is wise to try products beyond just plant-based patties. The plant-based market is worth $4.5 billion, according to the Plant Based Foods Association, and consumer demand for more poultry options — buoyed by last summer's chicken sandwich wars — provides ripe opportunity to experiment.
Beyond Fried Chicken could also make KFC more competitive with Chick-fil-A and Popeyes, which have around 2,300 and 3,100 restaurants respectively, and no plant-based meat offerings, compared to KFC's network of 4,000-plus stores. Still, KFC could soon face plant-based competition. Chick-fil-A has been exploring plant-based meat options and McDonald's is also testing plant-based chicken nuggets and sandwiches in Norway.