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Tim Hortons, Canada’s biggest coffee chain, has unveiled two new plant-based breakfast menu items. The Harvest Breakfast Sandwich and Harvest Breakfast Wrap are both built around a meat-free Impossible Foods sausage patty.
Consumers may remember that two years ago, Tim Hortons dropped its initial plant-based meat supplier, Beyond Meat. Beyond’s sausage patties were notoriously removed from most Tim Hortons locations following what the chain described as a lack of demand. British Colombia and Ontario were notable exceptions, though the vegan meat brand was quietly phased out there as well. The dropping of Beyond caused a stir, as it came just three months after the partnership was announced. News of Impossible’s supply represents a surprising shift.
Tim Hortons tries plant-based again
Only time will tell if Impossible fares better with Tim Hortons’ loyal breakfast patrons. The reintroduction of a plant-based option is happening due to reported revived consumer demand.
“We’re always considering how we can improve our menu based on feedback, and we know many of our guests are looking for a plant-based alternative in their breakfast sandwich that’s equally delicious,” chef Tallis Voakes, director of culinary innovation for Tim Hortons said in a statement. “The plant-based Impossible Sausage is another craveable option for all our guests – but we’re really happy to be meeting a need for those who had been asking for a plant-based alternative in their Tims breakfast sandwiches and wraps.”
Beyond and Tim Hortons announced their partnership back in May 2019. Developing a breakfast sausage, nationwide rollout followed in summer. It would only be a matter of weeks before the coffee chain began removing the new item from menus, however. At the time there were rumours that the patty didn’t mesh, flavour-wise, with the signature Tim Hortons coffee. The chain stuck to its rhetoric of low demand. January 2020 saw the complete removal from all 4,000+ locations, delivering a stock blow to Beyond. The alt-protein producer saw a dip of more than seven percent following news of the partnership dissolving.
After the Beyond debacle, Tim Hortons appeared to shy away from plant-based introductions. In December last year, the chain revealed it is working with Chobani to offer oat milk in its restaurants, but that was the last concession, until now. Interestingly, there is a link between Chobani and Impossible, with a previous executive from the former taking the reigns as Impossible CEO this week.
Another blow to Beyond
News of Tim Hortons partnering with Impossible will no doubt be an extra blow to Beyond, which is already struggling at least with public perception. Despite announcing new dishes with Panda Express, a vegan jerky release and online visibility with Pinduoduo, the fortunes of the company have taken a massive hit. CEO Ethan Brown predicted a post-Covid recovery, though it is too soon to gauge if he will be right.
Does Canada want plant-based food?
Tim Hortons’ claim that there was no demand for its Beyond breakfast patty seems to fly in the face of Canada’s increasing plant-based offerings, not least from Beyond itself. In January, Pizza Hut revealed that it had added Beyond’s sausage to its menu permanently.
Within one week, Lightlife was announced as partnering with not only Mary Browns and KFC, but also 7-Eleven. Only the latter will represent a vegan option, as the tenders will be served on their own, straight from the oven.
Mary Browns and KFC have both advised that due to cooking methods, their menu items are now suitable for vegans. The new Tim Horton’s items are also not suitable as they contain eggs and cheese.
Lead photo by Tim Hortons.