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Climate change and energy

KFC is testing plant-based chicken nuggets today (but just in one restaurant for now)

August 27, 2019
A bucket of meat-free KFC chicken nuggets
A bucket of meat-free KFC chicken nuggetsKFC

The fast food giant is just the latest chain to test catering for the growing demand for meat-free alternatives.

The test: Beyond Meat fried chicken nuggets will be available in one KFC restaurant in Atlanta today. Anyone who orders an item from the menu at Atlanta’s Cobb Parkway KFC from 10:30 am to 6:30 pm today will be given a free sample of the meat-free nuggets. If today’s trial goes down well with customers, the company plans a broader test or potential national rollout.

Keeping up with the competition: KFC is the first US fast food restaurant to test a plant-based chicken product, but its competitors are making similar moves. Del Taco started selling burritos stuffed with vegan “mince” in June, while Burger King’s meat-free Impossible Whopper went on sale in all US outlets earlier this month. Del Taco has seen an uptick in demand since, selling nearly 2 million of the meatless burritos.

Why all the fuss? Perhaps counterintuitively, the target market for these products is not vegans. Rather, it’s a response to the rise of “flexitarianism”: a diet which is primarily, but not exclusively, vegetarian. Cutting back on meat is a lifestyle choice that’s growing in popularity as environmentally conscious people try to reduce their carbon footprint (and the evidence is on their side).

Playing chicken: It could mark a comeback for Beyond Meat. The company pulled its chicken product from grocery stores earlier this year, after deciding it didn’t meet its standards. If it isn't successful now, rivals like Impossible Foods will be waiting to take its place.

Read next: The race to make a lab-grown steak

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