McDonald's announces plans for new plant-based burger

McDonald's announces plans for new plant-based burger

November 10, 2020

Meet the McPlant: McDonald’s is set to launch its own plant-based burger after successful trials – and says meat-free chicken could be next

  • McDonald’s will debut its plant-based meat alternative called ‘McPlant’ in 2021 
  • The burger is a joint venture with plant-based meat maker Beyond Meat  
  • Comes after P.L.T. burger was trialed at 100 locations in Canada earlier this year
  • The chain’s president said the line may expand to include ‘chicken-substitutes’ and ‘breakfast sandwiches’ 
  • Rival Burger King tested the Impossible Whopper in 2018 and had it in stores across the US in August 2019 

McDonald’s is finally testing its own plant-based burger: the McPlant.  

The fast food chain today announced that it has developed its own plant-based meat substitute in partnership with popular food company Beyond Meat, and will begin testing the faux-meat burger it in select markets next year.  

McDonald’s decided to introduce the burger after trialing a version, known as the P.L.T., in Canada last year.  

McDonald’s will launch a meat-free burger in a joint venture with plant-based brand Beyond Meat, which partnered with the chain on the P.L.T. burger in Canada earlier this year (pictured)

Beyond Meat and McDonald’s conducted tests of a so-called P.L.T. burger (pictured) at nearly 100 McDonald’s locations in Ontario, Canada, earlier this year

In a blog post, the company said: ‘Based on what we learned and an encouraging response, we’re excited to give you a sneak preview of the McPlant – a delicious plant-based burger crafted for McDonald’s, by McDonald’s, and with the kind of craveable McDonald’s flavor our customers love.’ 

The McPlant will be served on a ‘warm, sesame seed bun with all the classic toppings’. 

‘There are other plant-based burgers out there, but the McPlant delivers our iconic taste in a sink-your-teeth-in (and wipe-your-mouth) kind of sandwich,’ the blog post states. 

Beyond Meat was chosen as the front runner for the McDonald’s contract after the company conducted tests of a so-called P.L.T. burger at nearly 100 McDonald’s locations in Ontario, Canada, earlier this year. 

It is unclear if the new McPlant is a re-named P.L.T. or a new product entirely. 

Beyond Meat was not immediately available for comment. Its stock was down nearly 8% in morning trading, ahead of its quarterly results after market close. 

International President Ian Borden said the McPlant was created ‘by McDonald’s and for McDonald’s’. 

He described the creation as a ‘delicious burger that will be the first menu option in a plant-based platform.’

While the chain is starting with a burger, more plant-based offerings may be to come.

‘In the future, McPlant could extend across a line of plant-based products including burgers, chicken-substitutes, and breakfast sandwiches,’ Borden said. 

‘We are excited about the opportunity because we believe we have a proven, delicious-tasting product. When customers are ready for it, we will be ready for them,’ he added.

The chain did not indicate which countries would get the McPlant first, but indicated that it would be based on customer demand.

McDonald’s, which reported market-beating profit and revenue estimates for the third quarter on Monday, did not comment on why it will not continue to rely on Beyond Meat’s own offerings in the US.

‘Plant-based products are an ongoing consumer trend. It’s not a matter of if McDonald’s will get into plant-based, it’s a matter of when,’ McDonald’s Chief Executive Officer Chris Kempczinski said on a call with analysts.

Analysts, rival fast food companies and plant-based protein producers have been closely watching McDonald’s plans as it is one of the few national chains yet to sell plant-based meat burgers on a permanent basis.

While other chains have started offering plant-based meat options, a McDonald’s contract could be the biggest and would put the plant-based meat movement front and center in mainstream America. 

The burger giant has come to the plant-based game later than some of its competitors, including Burger King, which was one of the first major chains to embrace the vegetarian option.

The Impossible Whopper hit stores across the US in August 2019 after a popular test run the year before.

In January 2020, Burger King announced a testing phase for the Impossible Croissan’wich, made with a plant-based sausage patty — and last month, it went national.

The chain then made headlines in the UK January when it launched its plant-based Rebel Whopper, however the burger is not listed as vegan or vegetarian friendly as it is cooked on the same grill as Burger King’s regular beef Whopper burgers.

A disclaimer on Burger King’s website reads: ‘The Rebel Whopper is plant-based; however, it is cooked on the same broiler as our original Whopper to deliver the same unique flame-grilled taste. Due to shared cooking equipment it may not be suitable for vegetarians.’ 

Meanwhile, White Castle debuted the Impossible Slider in April 2018, and added the BBQ Impossible Slider in 2019.

In the works: In response to soaring popularity for fried chicken sandwiches, McDonald’s tested two new versions in December 2019 and January 2020 in Texas, and Tennessee

Coming soon? The crispy chicken sandwich featured a potato roll and was topped with butter and pickles. The deluxe version also had tomatoes, lettuce and mayo

Big news! McDonald’s is also bringing back the McRib nationwide in the US for the first time since 2012

KFC also launched itself into the plant-based arena in 2019, when it announced that it would be testing a Beyond Meat-created fried chicken alternative in the US; the chain then announced the launch of its plant-based burger as a permanent product on their menu in 900 UK stores at the start of the year.  

The KFC Vegan Burger features a fillet made of Quorn meat, coated in herbs and spices and served with vegan mayonnaise. 

Carl’s Jr. has been offering the Beyond Famous Star burger since January 2019, and later added the Beyond BBQ Cheeseburger.

And Fatburger is offering Impossible Fatburgers with vegan Daiya cheese.

Though McDonald’s may be arriving a bit later to the meat substitute game, it’s also enticing customers with some other menu additions.

In the same investor meeting, it was revealed that the new Crispy Chicken Sandwich will debut in 2021.

It seems that franchisees have been begging the chain to add a chicken sandwich to the menu that could compete with those introduced at other fast food chains.

Several urged McDonald’s to ‘stay focused’ on developing one in a leaked email from January.

They certainly seem to be planning to join the competition, and tested two new chicken sandwiches in December 2019 and January 2020 in Houston, Texas, and Knoxville, Tennessee.

The crispy chicken sandwich featured a potato roll and was topped with butter and pickles. The deluxe version also had tomatoes, lettuce and mayo.

Both were made with a new chicken filet that was different from the chicken in a McChicken sandwich and the buttermilk crispy chicken sandwich.

It has not been confirmed whether this formulation of the sandwich will be the one hitting menus next year, or if the recipe had been further tweaked since testing. 

Finally, on December 2, the McRib will return to all of its 14,4000 US restaurants for the first time in 12 years.

The boneless pork sandwich has long been a favorite of McDonald’s fans — thanks in part to its exclusive status, since it only pops up for a limited time on a regional basis.

It was invented in 1982 by McDonald’s first executive chef, Rene Arend, who also invented the McNugget. Arend told Maxim in 2009 that he was inspired by pulled pork sandwiches he ate in Charleston, South Carolina.

‘The McRib has been a beloved menu item at McDonald’s since its inception nearly 40 years ago,’ Linda VanGosen, McDonald’s vice president of menu innovation, said in a press release.

‘There’s nothing quite like the taste of the McRib. To our customers, it’s become more than a delicious, saucy moment… it’s a season, and it’s taking the internet by storm. That’s why this year, we’re proud to serve the McRib nationwide for everyone to enjoy.’

It will only be available for a limited time.

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