McDonald’s first foray into the plant-based protein patty market in North America is launching today in Canada.
The company’s “P.L.T.” (plant, lettuce, and tomato) sandwich, which uses patties from Beyond Meat, is now on sale at several locations in Canada.
This isn’t the first new vegetarian sandwich to launch at a “Golden Arches” location this year. Back in April, the company launched a new vegan sandwich for customers in its franchise locations across Germany.
McDonald’s has had vegetarian and vegan sandwich options on its international menu sporadically for years. Two years ago, it partnered with a specialty Norwegian food company called Orkla to launch its McVegan burger in Finland and Sweden.
With the launch in North American locations, McDonald’s is taking another step down the path toward potentially adding a vegetarian sandwich option to its menu in the U.S.
As the largest fast food restaurant in the world, any steps McDonald’s takes to move to adopt a plant-based protein product from Beyond Meat would represent a significant boost for the company.
It’s happening at a time when some of the world’s largest companies are beginning to launch their own meat-replacement products. Nestle, which partnered with McDonald’s on the launch of their vegan burger in Germany, is using products developed from the team responsible for Sweet Earth Foods.
Nestle bought the Moss Landing, Calif.-based business back in 2017 to get into the plant-based market, just as the company was beginning its work on a plant-based patty.
The fact that McDonald’s decided to go with Beyond for its North American debut points to the fact that the market for suppliers to the biggest restaurant chains is still contested.
Indeed, the major fast food burger chains appear to be taking a largely regional strategy with vendors as supply chain issues for meatless patties seemingly remain a concern.
For instance, while Burger King uses Impossible Foods patties for its Impossible Whopper, sources have said that the company may look for a regional supplier for plant-based products in Latin America.
And it’s important to note that these pilot tests don’t mean that fast food chains will stick to keeping plant based products on the menu. Even as Beyond Meat scores its huge win with its McDonald’s pilot across 28 locations in Canada, the company’s burgers were pulled from locations in another big regional Canadian fast food chain — Tim Hortons.
Beyond Meat benefits from a wider array of plant-based offerings than its closest competitor, Impossible Foods, which has stayed focused on a replacement for ground beef. The El Segundo, Calif.-based company has inked pilot deals with KFC for a plant-based chicken nugget, and a number of fast food outlets like Dunkin, are selling the company’s breakfast sausages.
But the competition extends beyond fast food chains. Big food service vendors like Sodexo and others that cater to corporations, colleges, and universities are trying to lock in suppliers of protein replacements as well.
Meanwhile, demand for alternative proteins continues to skyrocket, with most financial analysts predicting that the market for these types of products could take a significant bite out of the traditional meat industry over the next decade.
Analysts at Barclays predict the market for alternative proteins could hit $140 billion by 2029.
“During this test, we’re excited to hear what customers love about the P.L.T. to help our global markets better understand what’s best for their customers,” said Ann Wahlgren, McDonald’s VP of Global Menu Strategy, in a statement last week. “This test allows us to learn more about real-world implications of serving the P.L.T., including customer demand and impact on restaurant operations.” .