Taco Bell has revealed its new partnership with food tech giant Beyond Meat to “explore a new plant-based protein” that will be tested over the year. It marks the fast food chain’s first foray into plant-based meat within its U.S. operations, after its Yum China-owned franchise in mainland China began rolling out meatless menu options with a number of plant-based startup players last year.
While Taco Bell has long offered a few vegetarian options like the bean burrito on its menus across its U.S. chains, it has now decided to take its plant-based ventures further by teaming up with Beyond Meat to “create an innovative new plant-based protein” that will be tested in 2021.
It’s the first time that the Yum Brands-operated fast food chain will introduce plant-based meat in the country, no doubt a sign of the growing mainstream demand for sustainable, cruelty-free and healthier protein alternatives that even QSR majors can no longer ignore.
“We have long been a leader in the vegetarian space, but this year, we have more meatless options in store that vegetarians, veggie-curious and even meat-eaters will love,” said Liz Matthews, global chief food innovation officer at Taco Bell.
Taco Bell also announced that it will be ramping up its existing meatless options in the meantime by offering the option to swap out any meat ingredients across its entire menu for American Vegetarian Association-certified potato bites or black beans, starting from March 2021. Other meat-free options that will continue to be served include vegetarian-friendly dairy cheese quesadilla and black bean crunchwrap supreme.
However, no further details or specifics were revealed regarding its new collaboration with Beyond Meat. Despite this, investors were clearly positive on the news, with Beyond Meat shares jumping 13.7% on the early hours of Thursday (January 14) shortly after Taco Bell’s announcement.
We have long been a leader in the vegetarian space, but this year, we have more meatless options in store that vegetarians, veggie-curious and even meat-eaters will love.Liz Matthews, Global Chief Food Innovation Officer, Taco Bell
The plant-based food tech previously clarified that it had co-developed McDonald’s new McPlant line, though McDonald’s failed to mention the partnership at the time. The McPlant line is slated to be trialled throughout different markets in 2021, starting with a new burger, followed by chicken substitutes and breakfast sandwiches later down the line.
Beyond Meat has also teamed up with other QSR chains in the U.S., including a large-scale partnership with Pizza Hut and a deal with Taco Bell competitor Del Taco back in 2019 which say Beyond’s beef crumbles launch at 580 stores across the country. While the latest alliance with Taco Bell is the company’s first for the U.S. market, it has already worked with the franchise’s China outlets operated by Yum China, piloting its Beyond Burger alongside the group’s other brands such as KFC.
Aside from creating new plant-based proteins with food industry partners, Beyond Meat is expected to launch two new versions of its own flagship product in the first quarter of this year via retail channels. The company says that the first Beyond Burger will represent the “meatiest” version to date, while the other will be the brand’s most nutritious patty to meet consumers’ growing attention on both taste and the health and nutritional profile of plant-based proteins.
Lead image courtesy of Taco Bell.