KFC President Hints Plant-Based Options Will Hit Nationwide Menus in Near Future
The US President of KFC Kevin Hochman announced that he plans to propel the fast-food chicken chain into the plant-based sector. During a recent interview with Bloomberg, the Kentucky Fried Chicken executive revealed that he aims to incorporate plant-based foods into the company’s nationwide menu, providing vegan alternatives for a rapidly growing meat-free consumer base. Hochman believes that the plant-based trend is slated to continue growing at a rapid pace and that KFC must meet the demand, especially as more younger customers adopt plant-based diets.
“A lot of people think plant-based is about vegan or vegetarian. Over 90 percent of people who buy Beyond [Meat] in the grocery store are also eating animal proteins. I eat plant-based hamburgers at home now because I think they’re as good as the regular burger,” Hochman told Bloomberg. “Younger people tend to be the ones that want to eat more plant-based. We envision this trend to continue to grow. We’re pretty bullish on that. We don’t think that plant-based is a fad, we think that’s something that’s going to continue to grow over time.”
The fast-food company intends to provide consumers with a fried chicken alternative that mirrors the original Kentucky Fried Chicken as closely as possible. Hochman claims he doesn’t believe that the plant-based chicken market will overcome the animal-based chicken sector but recognizes its accelerated growth over the last decade.
KFC aims to provide a plant-based chicken product to debut in locations that contain a high level of plant-based consumers including Los Angeles and New York City. Beyond catering to consumers that already identify as plant-based eaters, Hochman hopes to see KFC’s plant-based food items appeal to all customers. He claims that the company aims to create a product that replicates the muscle texture of conventional animal chicken to give meat-eating customers a more sustainable option without sacrificing the classic KFC experience.
“Our plan is to try to replicate that Kentucky Fried Chicken as close as we can, obviously without using the animal. A lot of that is about how the chicken cuts and tears and the mouthfeel,” Hochman said. “The gold standard is the chicken tenderloin or chicken strip.”
Earlier this year, KFC’s parent company YUM! Brands signed a three-year partnership agreement with Beyond Meat to develop plant-based options. Hochman’s interview echoes the sentiments of YUM! Brands CFO Chris Turner when the partnership was announced. The Beyond Meat partnership will support the company’s plant-based development, incorporating a variety of plant-based proteins across the fast-food chain menus.
“We’re excited about the long-term potential plant-based protein menu items to have to attract more customers to our brands, especially younger consumers,” Yum! Brands CFO Chris Turner said in February.
Beyond Meat’s vegan chicken first made its debut at a KFC location in Atlanta for a 2019 trial run. The inaugural run experienced unpredictably high volumes and sold out in five hours. Following this successful run, KFC then extended the trial to 70 stores in Tennessee and North Carolina, and then 50 locations in California. Since these trials, KFC has not seen a national launch of plant-based chicken.
Hochman’s comment coincides with recent reports that predict an unprecedented rise of the plant-based protein market. A Bloomberg Intelligence report from last month predicts that the plant-based meat market will exceed $162 billion by 2030, seeing a 451 percent increase from the 2020 valuation of $29.4 billion.
While Beyond Meat has not yet introduced its vegan fried chicken to KFC locations nationwide, the California-based food tech company just rolled out its plant-based chicken tenders to more than 400 restaurants nationwide. The initial nationwide launch experienced widespread positive customer response, and the company plans to keep expanding its distribution into the future.