LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Kentucky Fried Chicken is partnering with Beyond Meat to test plant-based chicken, making it the first major US fast food chain to introduce a Beyond Chicken item.
The Yum! Brands subsidiary is debuting 6- and 12-piece nuggets as well as 6- and 12-piece boneless wings at an Atlanta restaurant on Aug. 27. KFC said it will consider feedback from the test to evaluate a broader test or potential national roll-out.
With the announcement, KFC joins a growing list of food service chains entering the plant-based protein space. Carl’s Jr., Dunkin’, A&W, Del Taco, Tim Horton’s, Hardee’s and Subway are just some of the restaurants that have partnered with Beyond Meat, while Burger King, White Castle, Red Robin and others offer vegan options from rival Impossible Foods.
The alternative meat strategy so far has proven successful for other restaurant chains. Burger King and Del Taco, for example, both reported same-store sales growth after launching the Impossible Whopper and Beyond Taco. This is because plant-based options appeal to more than just vegans and vegetarians. Meat eaters also are looking to increase the amount of plant-based foods in their diet. Last year, they accounted for 95 percent of plant-based burger orders.
Beyond Meat began developing plant-based meat 10 years ago and has since introduced several products across its beef, pork and poultry platforms. Beyond Chicken Strips, its first product, launched in 2013. The company quietly pulled the product from grocery shelves earlier this year after deciding its vegan chicken didn’t meet the same standards as other popular products like the Beyond Burger or Beyond Sausage.
KFC has been considering meatless chicken for several months. Kevin Hochman, president and chief concept officer at KFC US, told CNBC in May the company was interested in exploring plant-based options but did not have any plans to test a meat alternative.
If the plant-based chicken catches on with consumers, KFC could use its Beyond Meat menu offering to drive traffic in the United States, which has suffered in recent quarters.
“KFC Beyond Fried Chicken is so delicious, our customers will find it difficult to tell that it's plant-based,” Hochman said. “I think we've all heard ‘it tastes like chicken’ — well our customers are going to be amazed and say, ‘it tastes like Kentucky Fried Chicken.’”