Will KFC be the first American fried chicken chain to launch vegan meat?
Kevin Hochman, president of the multi-national fried chicken chain’s US branch, told Business Insider that he is in the process of meeting with vegan meat brands to explore options. It’s a move he never thought would happen, but the fast food industry is changing, fast.
“If you would have asked me six months ago, I would have said no, to be completely honest with you. Because, we’re about fried chicken,” Hochman said.
Chains like Burger King and Del Taco have both embraced the plant-based trend, offering meat-free meat from heavyweights Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, respectively. For Del Taco, adding Beyond Meat’s beefless crumbles is close to being one of the restaurants’ best new product launches. According to CNBC, Burger King locations that served the meat-free Impossible Whopper experienced an 18 percent increase in traffic. The chain plans to have it on the menu at all locations by the end of the year. Vegan meat is understandably on people’s minds.
“In the last two weeks I’ve made several appointments with some of the big guys, just to figure out — what does alternative protein look like in chicken?” Hochman continued.
Bill Gates-backed Impossible Foods recently received a star-powered $300 million investment from the likes of Jay-Z, Serena Williams, and will.i.am. The brand is reportedly in talks with chains such as Dunkin’, Wendy’s, and Papa John’s.
Beyond Meat, backed by investors including Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, Leonardo DiCaprio, and again, Bill Gates, became the first plant-based meat brand to go public. The El Segundo, California-based brand had the most successful first day IPO in nearly two decades. Bloomberg reports that its market value is getting closer and closer to one of the largest poultry producers in the US, Pilgrim’s Pride.
“Never say never. I would have said never six months ago. Now, I’ve really re-thought that,” Hochman said. “We’re going to learn more about that. … It still feels a little early, but we’re going to learn about it.”
Earlier this month, competitor fried chicken chain Chick-fil-A — controversial for its donations anti-LGBTQ organizations — announced that it was exploring meat-free options. Both KFC and Chick-fil-A are in the early stages of possibly adding vegan fried chicken. KFC is currently trialing vegan chicken at its UK development kitchen.