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New Proveg International report finds how fast food chains are embracing plant-based food

August 21, 2023

A report published by the food awareness organization, ProVeg International, has found that the five leading fast food chains – McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, Pizza Hut, and KFC – are delivering an increasing number of plant-based food options to their customers.

The report ranks the Big Five in terms of how plant-friendly they are and Burger King comes out on top with the highest percentage of main dishes being plant-based.

Main meals, sides, desserts and menu presentation were taken into consideration at fast food chains across nine countries – Belgium, Czechia, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, South Africa, Spain, the UK, and the USA.

Subway came in a very close second in the ranking after Burger King, followed by McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, and KFC.

“It is incredible to see how fast food  – which has always revolved around animal meat consumption – has become more plant-friendly and, in doing so, more climate-friendly,” said Josh Bisig, Senior Project Manager at ProVeg.

“We analyzed 43 online menus across all nine countries and 22 of them (51%) offered at least one plant-based option. This is encouraging but there is still plenty of room for improvement,” he added.

The latest moves by the 'Big Five' to incorporate plant-based into their menus include the launch by McDonald’s Germany of a vegan McFlurry dessert in 2022, while, in the same year, Pizza Hut UK introduced Violife vegan cheese into all of its UK locations, both for dine-in and delivery.

“Fast food chains are ubiquitous and play an important role in normalising climate-friendly food for millions of people around the world who might not otherwise consider the negative impacts of food choices," Bisig said. "And these chains are increasingly doing this by making plant-based options more available, tasty and affordable."

“While trend-setting with mainstream consumers, plant-based menu options also appeal to younger generations who are much more likely to purchase sustainable products and show loyalty to climate-conscious brands,” he added.

Although it’s clear that some chains are doing better than others, ProVeg found that all chains should focus on improving their menus in two key ways: increasing the plant-based options and implementing menu strategies to encourage mainstream consumers to choose plant-based.

The report recommends a number of 'best practices' that can drive consumers to enjoy more plant-based food. These are as follows:

• Menu options should be listed as plant-based by default.

• Animal-based options should be replaced with plant-based, instead of just adding plant-based items.

• Plant-based options should be smoothly integrated into main menus and repeated in a separate plant-based section of the menu.

• When naming menu items, words should be chosen that focus on the product’s culinary theme, sensory experience, or brand while minimising the use of words like ‘veggie’ or ‘plant-based,’ and totally avoiding words like ‘vegan,’ ‘vegetarian,’ or ‘meatless.’

ProVeg also recommends that, as the plant-based industry is continually growing, and people are becoming accustomed to plant-based alternatives, fast-food chains should consider partnering with, or expanding partnerships with, the variety of food manufacturers and retailers who are starting to expand in this space.

By partnering with the right outlets and distributors, plant-based brands increase their impact, the report stated.

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