LOUISVILLE, KY. — KFC, a subsidiary of Yum! Brands, Inc., is partnering with Beyond Meat to test plant-based chicken, becoming the first major U.S. fast-food chain to introduce a Beyond Chicken item.
KFC debuted 6- and 12-piece nuggets as well as 6- and 12-piece boneless wings at an Atlanta restaurant on Aug. 27. The company said it will consider feedback from the test to evaluate a broader test or potential national roll-out.
The product sold out in five hours, according to KFC.
With the announcement, KFC joins a growing list of food service chains entering the plant-based protein space. Carl’s Jr., Dunkin’, A&W, Del Taco, Tim Horton’s, Hardee’s and Subway are just some of the restaurants that have partnered with Beyond Meat, while Burger King, White Castle, Red Robin and others offer vegan options from rival Impossible Foods.
The alternative meat strategy so far has proven successful for other restaurant chains. Burger King and Del Taco, for example, both reported same-store sales growth after launching the Impossible Whopper and Beyond Taco, respectively. This is because plant-based options appeal to more than just vegans and vegetarians. Last year, meat eaters accounted for 95% of plant-based burger orders, according to The NPD Group.
Beyond Meat has since introduced several products across its beef, pork and poultry platforms. Beyond Chicken Strips, its first product, launched in 2013. The company quietly pulled the product from grocery shelves earlier this year after deciding its vegan chicken didn’t meet the same standards as other popular products like the Beyond Burger or Beyond Sausage.
KFC has been considering meatless chicken for several months. Kevin Hochman, president and chief concept officer at KFC U.S., told CNBC in May the company was interested in exploring plant-based options but did not have any plans to test a meat alternative.
If the plant-based chicken catches on with consumers, KFC could use its Beyond Meat menu offering to drive traffic in the United States, which has suffered in recent quarters.