KFC (YUM) is going above and Beyond…Meat, that is, as plant-based items continue to encroach on fast food's turf.
Late Tuesday, KFC announced the nationwide debut of Beyond Fried Chicken, after a two-year testing period. The anticipated menu item will be available to purchase at participating KFC locations in the U.S. beginning January 10. Customers can order the item as KFC’s first ever plant-based combo meal or à la carte in six or 12-piece orders.
Created in partnership with Beyond Meat (BYND), the limited-time meal recently made headlines in September, after KFC U.S. President Kevin Hochman revealed that the chain was working hard to perfect the new plant-based offering.
"What we’re trying to replicate is a tenderloin where you actually have the muscle fibers. The texture is a bit more pleasing than what we’d call a ‘chewed-and-glued.’ It’s a different technology," Hochman told business outlet "Fortune" at the time.
KFC first tested its Beyond Meat plant-based chicken in August 2019 with a limited-run test in Atlanta. The item sold out in under five hours.
Fast forward one year later, KFC and Beyond Meat launched expanded tests in Nashville, Charlotte and Southern California.
Since then, Hochman has doubled down on the plant-based boom — claiming that meatless alternatives will be the wave of the future.
“Younger people tend to be the ones that want to eat more plant-based,” Hochman told Bloomberg in an interview.
“We envision this trend to continue to grow. We’re pretty bullish on that. We don’t think that plant-based is a fad, we think that’s something that’s going to continue to grow over time,” the executive added.
In a new campaign celebrating the partnership, KFC and Beyond Meat teamed up with actress, producer and creator Liza Koshy, who swoops in to reveal the Kentucky Fried Miracle of plant-based Beyond Fried Chicken.
Plant-based revolution hits fast food
U.S. plant-based food sales grew two times as fast as animal-based food sales in 2020, totaling $7 billion, according to the latest Good Food Institute industry report.
Within that category, plant-based meat crossed the billion-dollar mark, expanding by 45% in dollar sales from 2019.
Fast food giants have hopped on the plant-based trend in recent years, with Beyond Meat serving as the go-to partner for numerous retailers. In addition to KFC, Beyond Meat has struck up alliances with McDonald's (MCD), Taco Bell, Costco (COST), Subway, TGI Friday’s, Dunkin’, Pizza Hut, and more.
The McPlant burger, which analysts say could hit nationwide Golden Arches stores this year, has been viewed as one of the most-anticipated plant-based rollouts. An expanded release could help lift not only Beyond Meat's bottom line, but plant-based meat makers overall.
Other competitors like Impossible Foods have searched to secure viable partnerships of their own.
In 2020, Impossible landed a mega deal with Disney (DIS) that would sell meatless items at high-traffic locations including Disneyland in Anaheim, Disney World in Orlando, and the Disney Cruise Line.
That same year, Starbucks (SBUX) announced that it would offer an Impossible Sausage breakfast sandwich at stores nationwide, and Burger King unveiled an Impossible Whopper (QSR), which hit the fast food chain to much fanfare in 2019.
Alexandra is a Producer & Entertainment Correspondent at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alliecanal8193
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