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McDonald’s, the world’s biggest fast food QSR chain, has announced that it will be launching its own plant-based meat line dubbed “McPlant”. Currently under development, the company says that the new plant-based McPlant Burger will be launching as soon as next year, and the line will eventually include other meatless menu items such as chicken alternatives and more.
McDonald’s has revealed that it is set to launch a brand new McPlant line of products that will cater to the fast-growing market of plant-based consumers. In an investor meeting, the fast food giant’s international president Ian Borden described McPlant as “crafted exclusively for McDonald’s, by McDonald’s.”
Without revealing details of specific markets, the company says it will be trialling the new plant-based McPlant Burger in certain regions next year. Borden added that McPlant would eventually include an entire line-up of plant-based menu items, including different burgers, chicken substitutes and breakfast sandwiches.
According to Borden, the company believes that its new McPlant alternative will be a “proven, delicious-tasting product.” No set timeline except for 2021 has been made public, but Borden said in the meeting that “when customers are ready for it, it will be ready for them.”
The news will likely come as a blow to the plant-based startup world, many of whom have been eyeing the Golden Arches as the “holy grail” when it comes to QSR partnerships to tap into mainstream consumers with its more than 38,000 locations worldwide. Spanning over 100 countries, McDonald’s serves more than 69 million people every single day and an eye-raising 75 burgers a second (which adds up to over 2 billion burgers a year).
McDonald’s has previously worked with Beyond Meat in Canada to pilot a single menu item, but there has been no plans since to continue the test. In Hong Kong, where the McDonald’s franchise is operated by Citic Group and the Carlyle Group since 2017, Green Monday landed an industry-first when it launched a long-term collaboration menu series of six vegetarian OmniPork Luncheon items – but the future of the partnership is now unknown given the chain’s announcement of its own-branded plant-based venture.
However, since the news broke, Beyond Meat has come forward to clarify that they have co-developed McPlant with McDonald’s, suggesting that the fast food chain had overstated its role in creating the new platform. In a statement provided to CNBC, the plant-based food tech said: “Beyond Meat and McDonalds co-created the plant-based patty which will be available as part of their McPlant platform.”
Nevertheless, what the move clearly shows is that McDonald’s ability to remain in the good graces of diners with their unhealthy, meat-filled offerings has come to an abrupt end. To invest time, resources and money into developing and introducing its own plant-based alternatives is a strong signal of McDonald’s strategy to ride the plant-based and flexitarian wave at the centre to retain market share.
Particularly in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which has exposed the dangers of the meat supply chain and shifted consumer priorities towards health and food safety, the appetite for plant-based meat alternatives has never been higher. Statistics from the U.K. to Hong Kong, Germany and South Korea all show that people are actively reducing their meat intake as a result of the crisis. Of the group of shoppers who bought plant-based meat for the first time this year in the U.S., as many as 92% plan to make it a long-term habit.
The trend has pushed a number of other big fast food companies to step up their plant-based offerings too, such as KFC, who has partnered with Beyond Meat, Quorn, Lightlife as part of its plan to become a “restaurant of the future”. Meanwhile, Burger King in Germany recently added plant-based chicken nuggets in collaboration with The Vegetarian Butcher.
Update November 10: This article has been updated to reflect further knowledge that Beyond Meat was involved in the development of McPlant.
Lead image courtesy of McDonald’s / designed by Sally Ho for Green Queen Media.