The people have spoken, and they want plant-based meats.
Remember the Beyond Fried Chicken that KFC debuted at a single trial location in Atlanta last week? Well, it turned out to be what the company described as a "Kentucky Fried Miracle." The plant-based chicken nuggets and boneless wings sold out in a day; within five hours, it had sold more Beyond Chicken than it normally sells popcorn chicken in an entire week.
The company had said that the trial would help them to gauge consumer interest in plant-based imitation meats, and "will be considered as KFC evaluates a broader test or potential national rollout." Now, however, it's never been more apparent that customers want it, with people lining up around the building to get a taste.
KFC can't change gears immediately, though, to put Beyond Fried Chicken on the menu permanently. In the usual vague corporate-speak, a representative told the New York Times that it will analyze the results of the test to determine what comes next, but it's a fair bet the company is thrilled with its success.
KFC isn't alone in exploring plant-based meat alternatives. Other fast food retailers, including Burger King, Little Caesar's, White Castle, Dunkin' Donuts, Carls' Jr., Tim Hortons (in Canada), and Qdoba, have all recently added menu items sourced from Impossible Foods or Beyond Meat. As the New York Times explains,
"Is the idea to turn everyone into a vegetarian? Not exactly. But studies have shown that eating less meat could help both the environment and your health, and that could be making people a little more interested in cutting back."
I think, too, that people are curious about how food technology can create a product that's similar to real meat; they want to experience it for themselves. Once they do – and discover how delicious and satisfying it is – they're more inclined to listen to the health and environmental warnings about meat consumption because the alternatives are no longer as scary.
KFC's stunning sell-out is indicative of a cultural shift toward accepting these plant-based meats. I think we'll be seeing a lot more of them in restaurants going forward.