Taco Bell leans into plant-based options with Beyond Meat team-up

Alexandra Canal
·Producer
·3 min read

Taco Bell (YUM) is joining fellow fast food giants in embracing fake meat.

The Mexican-themed fast food chain on Thursday revealed plans to team up with producer Beyond Meat (BYND) to create “an innovative new plant-based protein.” Those items will be tested in markets within the next year.

The chain has routinely offered meatless menu options, such as the black bean burrito, and currently has over 30 vegetarian ingredients on the U.S. menu. However, this will be its first foray into the increasingly popular world of fake meat.

Additionally, the chain announced that its Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes and the Spicy Potato Soft Taco will be returning to menus, beginning March 11. The vegetarian options were briefly removed last year as Taco Bell looked to simplify its menu offerings.

Taco Bell’s dual announcement underscores the recent shift among fast food operators to a more health-conscious consumer. Last week, Chipotle (CMG) unveiled its cilantro-lime cauliflower rice, a limited-time menu addition that Chipotle said has been among the most asked for items at the chain, per findings from a consumer survey.

Taco Bell's Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes and the Spicy Potato Soft Taco will be back starting March 11 (Courtesy: Taco Bell)
Taco Bell's Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes and the Spicy Potato Soft Taco will be back starting March 11 (Courtesy: Taco Bell)

“The return of our beloved potatoes is just the first step in showing our fans the strong continued commitment to vegetarian we are making this year,” said Liz Matthews, Taco Bell's global chief food innovation officer, in a press release.

“We have long been a leader in the vegetarian space, but this year, we have more meatless options in store that vegetarians, veggie-curious and even meat-eaters will love,” the statement continued.

Yet some of these innovations might be more sizzle than figurative stake. Chipotle’s no-carb rice option has been hit with mixed reviews, a recent Yahoo Finance taste test dubbed the grain alternative not worth the extra $2.

Chipotle's new Cilantro-Lime Cauliflower Rice available nationwide for a limited time (Courtesy: Chipotle)
Chipotle's new Cilantro-Lime Cauliflower Rice available nationwide for a limited time (Courtesy: Chipotle)

Meanwhile, Dunkin’ Brands teamed up with Kellogg’s Morningstar Farms brand (K) for a fresh take on a new plant-based sandwich.

Dubbed the Southwest Veggie Power Breakfast Sandwich, the new addition features a flavorful Morningstar Farms black bean patty layered with an egg white omelette and topped with cheddar cheese.

Dunkin's new power breakfast sandwich arrives in select stores (Courtesy: Dunkin')
Dunkin's new power breakfast sandwich arrives in select stores (Courtesy: Dunkin')

That gives Dunkin’ two plant-based breakfast sandwiches, the other one being with long-time partner Beyond Meat and its spicy sausage patty.

Dunkin’ competitor Starbucks (SBUX) already has its own plant-based offering with the Impossible Sausage breakfast sandwich available at stores nationwide.

But that won’t be all for 2021.

McDonald’s (MCD) announced it would be creating its own in-house plant-based burger appropriately titled the McPlant — with a little help from Beyond Meat.

The McPlant is expected to make its much-anticipated debut this spring and will directly compete with Burger King’s Impossible Whopper (QSR), which hit the fast food chain to much fanfare in 2019.

Alexandra Canal is a producer & entertainment correspondent at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alliecanal8193.

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