Finding plant-based options in national chain restaurants isn’t so impossible.
Since January, fast-food and fast-casual restaurants including Burger King, Del Taco, Red Robin, Blaze Pizza and Qdoba Mexican Eats have joined the meat-free revolution by adding new vegan-friendly menu items developed by companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods.
Companies known for selling animal proteins – Perdue and Tyson Foods – have announced their intentions to get in the alternative meats game.
Michele Simon, executive director of the Plant Based Foods Association, said meat and dairy alternatives are “exploding right now in popularity and excitement.”
“Trends come and go. We think of this more as a movement,” Simon said. “We’re talking of a mainstreaming of this way of eating and you can’t get more mainstream than Burger King and Carl’s Jr.”
Einstein Bros. Bagels added a dairy-free cream cheese to its 700 restaurants in February and coffee giant Starbucks added oat milk and a line of plant-based brews in 2018.
With the number of options is growing, 39% of Americans said they were trying to eat more plant-based products, according to a 2018 Nielsen report.
Sales also are growing, according to The Good Food Institute, a nonprofit, which found plant-based foods sales grew 17% in the past year to over $3.7 billion.
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Chipotle Mexican Grill is considered the first major chain to offer a vegan option when in 2014 it introduced its Sofritas. That same year, White Castle released its first vegan veggie slider and in September 2018 began selling the Impossible Slider.
The Cheesecake Factory and TGI Fridays also added meat-free burgers in 2018.
In January, Carl’s Jr. added the plant-based Beyond Famous Star developed by Beyond Meat with Red Robin adding the Impossible Burger to menus April 1.
Burger King started a pilot of the Impossible Whopper April 1 at 59 St. Louis restaurants. Weeks later the company announced plans to make the Impossible Whopper “available to all guests nationwide by the end of 2019.”
Other notable additions are in Mexican food.
In late April, Del Taco launched new Beyond Taco and Beyond Avocado Taco that include Beyond Meat protein and the restaurant’s signature seasoning. In less than two months, the chain sold nearly 2 million of the new tacos and launched new burritos with the protein.
In late May, QDOBA Mexican Eats added the plant-based Impossible to its more than 730 restaurants.
According to a report in May from Barclays, the market for alternative meat could reach $140 billion over the next 10 years with plant-based meat around $14 billion.
Ethan Brown, Beyond Meat’s founder and CEO, told USA TODAY the demand for plant-based products is growing as more people want to reduce meat consumption because of health concerns.
“We are about accessibility and meeting people where they’re at in their journey – whether you’re a hardcore carnivore or a strict vegan, you should be able to have our tacos, enjoy what you’re eating and feel great afterward,” Brown said.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko