October 23, 2020
Where’s the (fake) beef?
CRAIN’S CHICAGO BUSINESS – The world’s biggest burger chain risks losing customers as fake meat becomes more popular.
McDonald’s conducted a test in Canada of its P.L.T., or plant, lettuce, and tomato sandwich.
As many fast-food restaurants cash in on surging demand for meat alternatives, McDonald’s customers are still waiting for the world’s biggest burger chain to put a plant-based patty on its menu.
McDonald’s launched a test run in Canada last fall of its P.L.T., or plant, lettuce, and tomato sandwich. The Chicago-based company quietly concluded the test in April, and McDonald’s says it is evaluating the results.
Without such an option, the fast-food giant is leaving money on the table, experts say.
Sales of fresh plant-based meat alternatives at U.S. food retailers this year through Oct. 10 were up 128.5 percent over the same period in 2019, according to data from market research firm Nielsen. That’s compared to a 20.9 percent increase in regular raw meat sales.
Furthermore, 58 of the top 100 fast-food chains in the U.S. offer a plant-based meat alternative, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Good Food Institute. McDonald’s is not among them, giving fake-meat fans a reason to dine elsewhere.
Launching a new plant-based burger would complicate McDonald’s menu, potentially upsetting McDonald’s franchisees.
They’re loving the streamlined menu McDonald’s introduced as dining rooms closed during the pandemic, forcing franchisees to rely on drive-thru sales. To prevent long waits for service, McDonald’s cut all-day breakfast, certain dessert and beverage options, and other items.
Drive-thru service accelerated, and U.S. sales jumped 4.6 percent in the third quarter.
“You really have to weigh adding new items against just executing against the basics,” says David Henkes, senior principal at Chicago-based market research firm Technomic.
McDonald’s would need to ensure that adding a new item to the menu—and the complexities on the production side that come along with it—actually brings in new customers, Henkes says. If current customers just swap their orders, the new offering could end up cannibalizing business … Read more (subscription may be required).
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