Beyond Meat’s Holy Grail Is Vegan Bacon. This Meatless Pepperoni Gets It One Step Closer.

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Beyond Meat edges closer in its quest to perfecting vegan bacon with the launch of vegan pepperoni for Pizza Hut.

The Southern California-based vegan meat brand Beyond Meat, best known for its Beyond Burger that looks, cooks, and tastes like beef, has developed vegan pepperoni for the popular pizza chain, Pizza Hut. It’s being tested at 70 locations across five states. It’s available on the original stuffed crust or original pan pizzas, Pizza Hut says.

“Pizza Hut’s new Beyond Pepperoni Pizza delivers the same iconic taste as our original pepperoni that fans know and love,” Georgeanne Erickson, chief brand officer of Pizza Hut, a subsidiary of Yum! Brands, Inc., said in a statement. “With this new plant-based option, we’re giving customers more choices and more reasons to love Pizza Hut.”

Image: Pizza Hut

Beyond Meat x Pizza Hut

The launch marks the second collaboration between the two brands; Beyond Meat created a vegan sausage for Pizza Hut in 2020. The new launch is part of a deal between Yum! Brands and Beyond Meat announced last February. The agreement will see Beyond Meat create menu items for all of the Yum! Brands companies, which include KFC and Taco Bell.

“We know there is strong consumer demand for pepperoni, and we’re thrilled to unveil a game-changing plant-based pepperoni topping as the next chapter in our innovation-focused partnership with Pizza Hut,” said Dariush Ajami, chief innovation officer for Beyond Meat. “We’re confident fans will love Beyond Pepperoni as it delivers the crisped edges and savory flavor profile of Pizza Hut’s classic pepperoni with the added benefits of plant-based meat.” 

The meatless pepperoni does more than just offer the growing flexitarian market an alternative to pork-based pepperoni—for Beyond Meat founder Ethan Brown, it’s one step closer to vegan bacon.

The real test for us is to make each of our platforms—beef, pork and poultry—indistinguishable from animal protein.

Ethan Brown, Founder, Beyond Meat

“The real test for us is to make each of our platforms—beef, pork and poultry—indistinguishable from animal protein. How do you make a raw chicken breast with the translucent skin, the color transition that occurs? Steak, given its distribution of fat and protein, and, of course, bacon? Those three things are the holy grail,” he told the Wall Street Journal in June.

Making meat from plants

A number of plant-based bacon options are already on the market—mostly made with seitan, the glutinous protein in wheat. But they don’t taste or have the mouthfeel of traditional bacon. Just like Brown’s Beyond Burger was able to replicate the taste and texture of beef, he’s committed to mirroring that in whole cut meats like steak, chicken breasts, and, of course, bacon.

Beyond Meat founder Ethan Brown (Image: Beyond Meat)

Whole cut meats are inherently more difficult to replicate with plants than ground beef or sausage, though. But the brand is getting closer—pepperoni is proof. Denser and chewier than sausage, pepperoni is more like bacon than it is sausage.

Bacon is big business. CNBC reported that more than 60 percent of fast-food menus offered bacon in 2018. Fast food is critical for Beyond Meat, which works with a number of giants in the space including the leading chain, McDonald’s. It’s also recently launched vegan chicken nuggets with A&W in Canada, and was behind the KFC vegan chicken tests in the U.S. 2019.

For Brown—a strict vegan—the goal has always been to create “a ubiquitous presence” so that consumers can “go into a McDonald’s and get a Beyond product, or KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and it is seamless for people who want to transition toward a plant-based meat,” he said.

“We have to make the product indistinguishable from animal protein. We have a lot of miles left before we get there.”

Lead image courtesy of Pizza Hut / Beyond Meat.


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