As I told the Fast-Casual Summit audience earlier this week, I’m proud of Burger King, Taco Bell, and other fast-food restaurants that have begun adding plant-based options to their menus.
What I didn’t mention was my disappointment in their decades-long policy of stuffing the public with cheap, unsustainable meat products. That, however, is even more reason for me to applaud their efforts.
Yesterday, the online business magazine Fast Company released an article focused on how much the public’s acceptance of plant-based meat alternatives has grown since COVID-19 arrived:
“… [F]or a two-week period in March, plant-based meat sales grew 148%. Nielsen also reported that sales of all alternative meat products rose 264% in the nine weeks ending May 2… Yet only 5% of American adults call themselves vegetarians, according to a Gallup poll.”
If that 5-percent vegetarian figure is even close to correct, 95 percent of consumers are just now beginning to consider trying plant-based foods.
The pandemic has triggered a general awareness of the importance healthy eating, but is it enough to keep people coming back for more?
Last year, the article’s author (and food-ingredient producer) John McIntyre surveyed 2 thousand consumers about their willingness to eating plant-based foods. The results?
“Four in five (81 percent) said sustainability mattered, but taste and health both rated higher.
Eighty-six percent rated taste as an important factor in choosing food.
Forty percent selected meat’s impact on greenhouse gas emissions.”
McIntyre himself admits, “I care deeply about my health and the environment. I’m eating more plant-based meals because of that.”
He also calls on the fast-food industry to make more nutritious plant-based products that taste great without relying on unhealthy fat and salt. There’s a long way to go, but the public desire for healthy fast food is real.
I’m truly grateful for the industry giants’ first small steps. One day, they might even win over one of their staunchest critics! Just today, my seven-year-old son (who recently had a birthday) proclaimed to his McDonald’s-loving little cousin:
“That stinking McDonald’s is not vegan. I don’t like McDonald’s!”
We have to begin somewhere, no matter how clumsy our start might be!