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Popular U.S. fried chicken chain KFC is launching vegan chicken in all U.S. locations beginning January 10th, for a limited time. The announcement overlaps with the popular month-long Veganuary campaign. KFC operates nearly 4,000 locations across the U.S.
In an extended partnership with Beyond Meat, which produced KFC’s first vegan U.S. offering in 2019, the chain said the move comes as demand for vegan protein is on the rise.
The debut is the first time a major U.S. fast-food chain announced a national vegan chicken launch. Other launches have been focused around burgers and sausages.
“It’s time,” said KFC US President Kevin Hochman in an interview with CNN Business. He said the chain’s customers want to “eat less animal protein but don’t want to give up comfort food.”
The nuggets are not suitable for vegan customers however, as they will be cooked in the same oil as meat products.
That was the case in Atlanta in 2019 when KFC first launched its vegan popcorn chicken. Customers lined up around the block for hours for a taste.
The trial led to more tests in 2020 including locations in Los Angeles, Charlotte, North Carolina, and Nashville, Tennessee.
According to KFC, which is owned by Yum! Brands, the Beyond Fried Chicken is “packed with delicious flavor and the juicy satisfaction that you’d expect from KFC’s iconic fried chicken.” The new product is for customers “that want to eat a little less animal-based protein, but that haven’t become vegan or vegetarian,” Hochman said.
The companies say they’ve made slight tweaks to the recipe in the years since the trials. “The taste is so good that they might choose it over regular fried chicken,” Hochman said.
We expect it’ll sell out,” he said. “Based on the speed of that sell-out and customer reaction, that’ll determine what our plans will be next. But our intent isn’t to be one and done.”
Beyond Meat x Fast Food
Beyond Meat has become partner to all of Yum! Brands’ chains including Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. It has launched vegan items across Asia, Europe, and the U.S. with the franchises.
Beyond Meat also holds the title spot with the fast-food market leader, McDonald’s. The popular McPlant features a Beyond Burger.
The news comes just hours after Burger King announced it was adding Impossible Foods’ vegan nuggets to its UK locations.
“We began the company with plant-based chicken over a decade ago, so we’ve had in our DNA this notion of creating that muscle structure that’s unique,” Ethan Brown, CEO of Beyond Meat, said.
The new vegan nugget option comes as a combo meal with a drink and fries, or à la carte in six or 12-piece sizes.
Lead image courtesy of KFC.