The future of fast food is plant-based. Nationwide fast-food restaurants are pivoting to vegetarian-friendly menu items.
Burger King QSR, -1.44% announced earlier this month that it was selling a meatless Whopper, made with a vegetarian patty by Impossible Foods that tastes and bleeds like real beef at select locations. On Monday, the fast-food chain said it’s taking that Impossible Whopper nationwide.
However, the Impossible Whopper costs about $1 more than the regular beef patty Whopper. The special blend from Impossible Foods, a company based in Redwood City, Calif. involves genetically modified yeast that many reviewers say tastes remarkably similar to meat, without the cholesterol.
Catherine Lamb, a food reviewer at The Spoon, found that it costs an extra $4 to replace a beef patty with an Impossible Burger in some restaurants. But people appear willing to pay more for food products that are labeled “healthy,” according to a recent nutrition survey by Pollock Communications and Today’s Dietitian.
One food reviewer said it costs an extra $4 to replace a beef patty with an Impossible Burger in some restaurants.
A healthy diet should actually have “low amounts” of food that come from animal sources, nutritionists say. In fact, many of the nutrients people rely on from meat for, such as protein, can just as easily come from plants like vegetables, legumes and nuts, such as peanuts.
“Fresh ingredients with not too much fat –– that’s what people want. The market is changing,” New York-based restaurant consultant Jason Kaplan told MarketWatch. Some 22% of consumers now limit their meat and poultry consumption, and 52% increased their fruit intake in the last year.
More fast-food chains are following that advice. The Impossible Slider costs $1.99 at White Castle compared to 91 cents to $1.78 for a meat slider, or $1.13 to $2.21 for a meat slider with cheese. However, White Castle Impossible Sliders are about twice the size of regular meat sliders.
“With the popularity of alternative meats and meat substitutes, it’s a much more appealing approach to people who are health conscious, but also want something that has a strong flavor profile as opposed to the boring veggie burger,” Kaplan said.
There’s money in meatless products: 22% of consumers limit their meat and poultry consumption, one study said.
Adam Eskin, the founder of Dig Inn, a vegetable-focused fast casual restaurant chain with locations in New York and Boston, said it takes expertise to serve vegetables that are just right. Like meatless burgers, Dig Inn salads don’t come cheap: They range in price from about $10 to $12.
Founded in 2011, the New York-based chain’s signature item is called the “marketbowl,” a mix of seasonal vegetables, grains like brown rice and farro, and a choice of proteins like wild Alaskan salmon, chicken meatballs or tofu.
“Scratch cooking vegetables in a fast environment at the volume we operate is very complicated –– we straddle a very thin line, not wanting to be too far ahead and ending up with overcooked broccoli,” Eskin told MarketWatch.
Dig Inn recently received a $15 million investment from Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group –– the team behind Shake Shack –– this week that will help with expansion plans. Dig Inn is up against some stiff competition, including salad chains Chop’t, Tender Greens and Just Salad.
Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality group also invested in 2014 in Sweetgreen, the salad chain with founded in 2007. Customers often wait on long lines for its $12 salads. Last year, vegan plant-based chain By Chloe received $31 million in funding for its international expansion.
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