KFC will soon fry up meatless chicken.
The Kentucky-based chain is teaming up with alternative protein company Beyond Meat to serve up plant-based “fried chicken” at several of its restaurants in the South in Tennessee and North Carolina after a successful test run, Beyond Meat announced Wednesday.
Yum Brands Inc.-owned KFC is the first chain to serve up a plant-based chicken product as fast-food chains like Burger King and Dunkin' Brands push alternatives to beef with meatless patties and imitation sausage. The menu item will look like and mimic the taste and texture of real chicken fried up like a chicken nugget. It’ll be 80 calories per piece and will be available in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Nashville, Tennessee.
Cooking up a fibrous, muscle-like texture was crucial when creating the meatless chicken, Beyond Meat CEO Ethan Brown said in an interview, Reuters reported.
KFC's meatless fried chicken launch comes a day after McDonald’s announced its fried chicken breakfast sandwiches on menus amid ongoing chicken sandwich wars between chains like Chic-fil-A and Popeyes. Fast-food restaurants across all meal categories including Hardee’s, Carl’s Jr. and Dunkin’ have rolled out Beyond Meat on breakfast and lunch menus, and other chains like Burger King and White Castle have partnered with meatless rival Impossible Foods to roll out similar plant-based products like burgers and plant-based pork for breakfast items.
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Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have led the charge in the plant-based foods market as more eaters look to cut back on their consumption of animal products. Indeed, retail sales of plant-based foods have grown more than 11 percent in the past year, bringing the total market value to over $4.5 billion, according to the Plant-Based Foods Association. The total U.S. retail food market has grown just 2 percent in dollar sales during the same period, suggesting that alternative meat has major staying power beyond a fleeting food trend.
KFC tested its plant-based chicken at one location in Atlanta in August to attract more customers to its restaurants. And other food giants have also jumped on the bandwagon to diversify its consumer reach. Nestle-owned Sweet Earth Foods announced earlier this month Ruby Tuesday would be its first national restaurant partner to serve its plant-based Awesome Burger at the chain amid sales struggles and declining foot traffic.
Not all meatless launches have proven to be a success. Tim Hortons restaurants said Tuesday it has stopped selling Beyond Meat products at its doughnut and coffee shops across Canada after launching in June at nearly 4,000 locations.
"Ultimately, the product was not embraced by our guests as we thought it would be," a spokesperson for Tim Hortons told FOX Business.
Suzanne O'Halloran contributed to this report.