Costco has shelves stacked with vegan food options. The wholesale food retailer has more than 780 locations worldwide; a good portion (more than 500) of its warehouses are in the United States, but it also has stores across Canada, the UK, Australia, Japan, and South Korea, among other countries. In a number of locations, you can find bulk-buy vegan meat products, as well as dairy-free milk, pantry staples, and cruelty-free household items. But there’s another place you can grab vegan options in Costco: the food court.
Currently, these options are limited, but some campaigners are calling for the chain to add more vegan food to its menu.
Costco Vegan Food
One of Costco’s best-selling vegan products is Don Lee Farm’s Organic Plant-Based Burgers. Like rivals the Impossible Burger and the Beyond Burger, the meatless patties “bleed” like real meat thanks to beetroot juices. When the burger first launched at Costco stores in the U.S. in 2018, it was purchased one million times in the space of two months.
Donald Goodman—president of Don Lee Farms—said at the time: “Interest in our Organic Plant-Based Burger has just exploded … having sold a million burgers this quickly has exceeded everyone’s expectations. The excitement around this burger has been overwhelming.”
Costco now also sells Don Lee Farm’s Better Than Beef burgers. The new patty “delivers on the experience and satisfaction of beef’s aroma, texture, flavor, and juiciness,” said Danny Goodman, the brand’s head of development, in a statement.
Don Lee Farms’ patties aren’t the only vegan burger customers can find in-store. Costco also now sells the Beyond Burger in bulk, as well as Nestlé’s Awesome Burger.
In Canada, bulk-buy packets of dairy-free oat milk are available. Elsewhere, there’s almond, coconut, and rice milk.
In the U.S., customers can bulk-buy tofu, organic ravioli, Amy’s Kitchen’s soups, and sweet treats like dairy-free peanut butter cups. In the UK, veggie jerky is available, as well as pantry staples like nuts and baked beans.
Eating Vegan at Costco
In 2018, Costco removed meaty Polish hot dogs from its food court menu in favor of healthier plant-based options. They were first introduced in the U.S. in 1995 as part of a $1.50 meal deal with a soda.
Removing the Polish dogs was a bold move, considering the food item was popular with customers (some are still campaigning for its return).
Fast-forward to 2020, and there is a vegan granola-topped açai fruit bowl and a plant-based Al Pastor salad in its place. In a shareholders meeting in 2018, regarding the salad, CEO Craig Jelinek said, “it is healthy. And, actually, it tastes pretty good, if you like those kinds of things. I tried it once.”
Costco Vegan Hot Dogs
As Jelinek admits, most people don’t want to eat salad all the time. Many customers want something less salad-like and more hot dog-like, but that doesn’t mean bringing back the meaty option from pre-2018. More than 4,700 people have signed a petition urging Costco to add a vegan hot dog option to its food court menu.
Scott Hildebrand—founder of vegan publication Clearly Veg and keen Costco customer—started the petition last year.
He said in a statement, “we need to work with companies to make plant-based options more accessible. Our family, like countless others, are regulars at Costco. I’d love to see them extend plant-based options to the food court, so we can enjoy veggie hot dogs after a Sunday shopping trip.”
The petition—aimed at Jelinek—says: “sorry, but when I feel like a hot dog or pizza, a salad is the last thing on my mind.”
Hildebrand suggests Seattle-based brand Field Roast should provide the hot dogs. He said, “the Field Roast Frankfurter is one that I’d put at the top of the list if I were commissioned to pick a mass-market vegan hot dog that everybody would love.”
There are plenty of other options, too. Beyond Meat, Tofurky, and Lightlife all offer vegan sausages.
Why Launch a Vegan Hot Dog?
Other major chains have added a vegan hot dog option with success. In Germany, furniture giant IKEA’s veggie hot dog is more popular than its meat-based option. It launched the plant-based sausage in the same year Costco removed its Polish hot dog from the menu, for environmental reasons.
Michael La Cour—managing director at IKEA Food Services AB—said at the time, “with the global reach that we have at IKEA we believe that we have a responsibility and a great opportunity to serve food that is good for the planet.”
He continued: “But of course, there is no point in creating a more sustainable food option if it is not delicious, and that is why we are extremely proud of the new veggie hotdog.”
IKEA is now working on meatier options. It’s launching new high-protein vegan meatballs in Europe this summer.
La Cour said of the new launch: “[plant-based meat] is a really exciting industry! Looking at the quality of the products that we have been tasting I am looking forward to serving a delicious plant-based meatball made from alternative protein at IKEA. I hope that the many meatball lovers out there will like it as well.”
Vegan meat is healthier than animal-based meat, too. The World Health Organization classifies processed meat—which includes hot dogs, as well as bacon, ham, jerky, and salami—as a Group 1 Carcinogen. This classification means there is sufficient evidence that processed meat causes cancer; it’s the same category as tobacco and asbestos.
By offering a vegan hot dog, Costco would also be giving its customers a more sustainable food court option that competes with meat on not just health, nutrition, and sustainability, but taste and texture too.
“The future is vegan,” Hildebrand states in his petition. “It is critical for animals and it is critical for the environment. But veganism as a mainstream trend is relatively new, so we need to work together and tell companies exactly what products we want them to sell to us.”