Plant-based meats once seemed like the future of fast food, but the experience in the US in 2022 showed that they could be dead when they arrive.
With a few exceptions such as Burger King’s Impossible Whopper, American plant-based fast food menu items have mostly come as limited-time offers. KFC sells plant-based nuggets, and Chipotle added vegan his chorizo. Taco Bell has conducted small-scale tests on several plant-based proteins. Dunkin added plant-based sausages to its menu in 2019, to much fanfare, before quietly removing them from most locations in 2021.
Things looked promising in early 2022 as McDonald’s expanded McPlant Burgers to 600 locations across the United States. When the test came to an end after about six months, JP Morgan analyst Ken Goldman wrote it was due to poor sales.
BTIG analyst Peter Saleh said sales have been particularly slow in low-income and rural areas, with some restaurants selling only three to five McPlants a day.
Some of the reluctance is due to the rising price of plant-based protein. Starbucks’ Impossible breakfast sandwiches in Rochester, New York are 35% more expensive than real sausages.
Consumers have also become skeptical of health claims related to plant-based meat. Deloitte’s September survey of 2,000 people found that by 2022 consumers will be less likely to consider plant-based meats healthier than regular meats found that they were less likely to pay higher prices for their meat.
Potential customers are put off by the long list of ingredients with unclear health benefits over real meat.