“No one buys them,” former McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson explained to investors in 2011 why they did not carry any veggie burger, according to Business Insider. Six years later, the fast food chain tested ‘McVegan’ at a handful of locations in Tampere, Finland. After the trial period, McDonald’s would evaluate the sales and decide if they would launch it nationwide and even worldwide.
It was actually not the first time McDonald’s rolled out a veggie burger. However, the reception had not been so well that they just introduced it in select countries. Lately, the fast food giant decided to test the waters again. In Norway, they are carrying the vegan-friendly McSpice while they have recently launched Le Grand Veggie in France. ‘McVegan’ is their latest addition, apparently targeting the rising number of vegans and flexitarians.
With the plant-based market going from strength to strength, businesses can undoubtedly bank on the trend. One prominent example is Pret. Ever since its introduction of Veggie Pret which was conceived originally as a temporary store, it has received an overwhelmingly positive response and recently opened its third permanent fixture in London, with queues around the building block on its opening day. Even in Pret stores, a section is dedicated to plant-based items, highlighted by an eye-catching bright green sign emblazoned with these words “Everyone (not just for veggies)”.
This tactic works wonders to break the chasm dividing the two camps throughout the years. One does not have to be a vegetarian/vegan to enjoy delicious plant-based food. In the US, TGI Fridays also tested run the Beyond Burger in select stores and patrons can substitute the original burgers with the Beyond Burger patty. “Fridays is constantly innovating to appeal to an array of tastes and lifestyles, which includes more options for vegetarians and meat-lovers alike,” stated Stephanie Perdue, TGI Fridays chief marketing officer.
Meanwhile, dairy-free options are also making their way into the mainstream menu. Pizza Hut partnered with Violife to put vegan cheese on pizzas for a trial period of eight weeks at five branches in the UK. This is solid proof that more and more restaurants are willing to offer dairy-free alternatives for their customers. The ice cream sector is where the non-dairy competition is getting increasingly fierce and major brands do not want to miss the boat. With Ben and Jerry’s taking the lead to introduce non-dairy flavours, Haagen Dazs has recently joined the vegan game, adding 4 flavours to their existing inventory in the US. Starbucks is also reported to release bottled Frappuccino beverages made with almond milk next year. It has been introducing plant-based options, such as Lentils & Vegetables Protein Bowl and vegan cupcakes in the US.
The sooner major brands tap into the plant-based market, the bigger their financial returns will be. Take Danone as an example. Despite a 2.3% decrease in their dairy and plant-based unit in the third quarter, Alpro, which Danone acquired earlier this year, is reported to have delivered strong momentum, attributed to the continuous growth in the dairy-alternative category.
With McDonald’s testing McVegan, there will be a ripple effect on other fast food chains and eateries, making plant-based foods become increasingly mainstream. This will certainly help create a conducive environment for the plant-based industry to grow even faster.
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