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In case you haven’t heard, “non-meat” burgers are all the rage. In fact, some predict that the alternative protein food market could reach $140 billion worldwide within 10 years. That kind of financial projection means several fast-food chains are beginning to introduce plant-based burgers and other sandwiches on their menus. Citing growing consumer demand, these restaurants believe the future will include these types of food items. And apparently, Mickey D’s agrees as it begins to test the waters for its own plant-based burger—the McDonald’s veggie burger.

It was recently announced that McDonald’s veggie burger—i.e., the “P.L.T.”, which stands for “plant, lettuce and tomato”—would be tested in select stores in Canada. Unlike other alternative protein sandwich pursuits, McDonald’s veggie burger involves a partnership with Beyond Meat. Already, Beyond Meat has demonstrated success with other fast-food chains. And the company does offer a greater variety of options than other plant-based burger competitors. Still, whether the McDonald’s veggie burger is a success or not has yet to be determined. If it is, then we may well see the P.L.T. in U.S. stores soon.

The History of the McDonald’s Veggie Burger

This case is not the first time that McDonald’s—the world’s largest fast-food chain—has explored a plant-based burger. In Finland and Sweden, the company partnered with a Norwegian corporation named Orkla. Based on local demand in these countries, McDonald’s veggie burger (called the “McVegan”) is commonly available. Likewise, McDonald’s partnered with Nestlé in Germany to create its “Big Vegan T.S.” Naturally, it had been assumed that any plant-based burger in the U.S. would involve one of these two companies. Thus, the partnership with Beyond Meat to create a North American McDonald’s veggie burger represents a clear shift.

McDonald’s P.L.T. is currently available in 28 locations in Southwest Ontario for 12 weeks. The experiment represents a test to evaluate consumer demand as well as franchise logistics. McDonald’s veggie burger will sell for $5 (i.e., 6.49 Canadian dollars), and it boasts of 460 calories with 25 grams of fat. In addition to the Beyond Meat plant-based burger patty, the P.L.T. will have lettuce, onions, tomato and optional cheese. Obviously, McDonald’s, as well as Beyond Meat, is hoping for the P.L.T. to be a big hit.

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Plant-Based Burger Wars — A Rapidly Evolving Landscape

The release of McDonald’s veggie burger in North America looks to be in response to Burger King’s own plant-based burger. Recently, Burger King partnered with Impossible Foods to create a veggie Whopper, available for a limited time throughout the U.S. Likewise, other fast-food franchises are similarly considering plant-based burgers and other related food items. White Castle, Qdoba, and Bareburger are a few of these companies. It would appear that McDonald’s needs to consider a plant-based burger of its own to stay atop of its market.

Choosing Beyond Meat may have been an excellent idea. Unlike Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat has other alternative protein products. This detail has led to an agreement with Kentucky Fried Chicken for plant-based chicken nuggets. Likewise, Dunkin’ Donuts serves breakfast sandwiches with Beyond Meat’s offerings. Given this matter, the McDonald’s veggie burger may just be the first in alternative protein items. Beyond Meat could potentially partner with McDonald’s on other fast food items as well.

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Statistics Favor Continued Growth of Plant-based Burgers

Notably, less than 10 percent of people consider themselves true vegans or vegetarians. However, this statistic doesn’t tell the entire story. Overall, almost 40 percent of Americans say they are striving to eat more plant-based foods. This number reflects a sizable portion of the nation—and one that McDonald’s likely acknowledges. Since the McDonald’s veggie burger announcement, stock markets have paid attention as well. In fact, Beyond Meat’s stock has since risen nearly 12 percent in value. It clearly should be interesting to see how the plant-based burger test plays out for McDonald’s. Nevertheless, most seem to be somewhat optimistic about the P.L.T.’s future.

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