It puts a damper on one of the largest producers of meat substitutes in America. Not only did the share price plummet, the Californian company has also laid off employees. The Washington Times states that the fast food chain ‘McDone’ is (done) with the, or at least this, veggie burger.
Last year, the two companies announced a three-year partnership. A pilot in only a few McDonald’s locations seemed promising, but scaling up to 600 restaurants has not been very successful for visitors. In the Netherlands, the McPlant was available as a trial for several months at the end of last year.
Meat publicist Reinout Burgers, who has been a vegetarian for several years, is not surprised by the news from the US. “Vegetarian burgers are counterfeit. And that’s how they taste too,” he judges. According to him, tasty meals can be made from vegetable proteins, but imitating a burger perfectly so that it really resembles a meat burger is quite a challenge.
Not only was the attempt by Beyond Meat to convince McDonald’s fans that it was difficult, introductions in other American fast food chains are also difficult. Partnerships with KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut have not yet resulted in regular items on American menus. An irresistible vegetable pepperoni pizza turns out to be a bridge too far.
Pablo Moleman, co-founder of ProVeg Netherlands, points out that a setback for Beyond Meat does not mean that the entire meat substitute sector is struggling in the US. He is also positive about the roll-out of vegetarian burgers in Europe. “In Austria, Burger King has even made the vegetarian version standard, under the motto ‘Normal oder mit Fleisch?’
Burgers also believes that consumers are open to it: ,,People are curious. And many would like to try a vegetarian burger for reasons of climate or animal welfare. But in order to take root, it must meet the quality of meat specimens. That often doesn’t work well enough.”
‘Stuffy soy balls’
ProVeg is more optimistic. The organization aims to halve animal consumption between now and 2040. Moleman is pleased with what, in his view, is the growing range of vegetarian delicacies by fast food chains in the Netherlands. “And in Belgium, one in three Burger King Whoppers sold is already the veggie version.”
If consumers want to opt for plant-based burgers, that’s fine, but it shouldn’t become coercive. That is the view of Gert-Jan Oplaat, chairman of the umbrella organization of Dutch Poultry Slaughterhouses, Nepluvi. “Vegetarian manufacturers are trying, but many consumers are still not convinced. They’re not crazy, it tastes like soy soy balls. But of course I am not objective.”
It is unclear how well the roll-out of plant-based products at McDonald’s in the Netherlands is going. A company spokesperson could not be reached.