U.S. sales of plant-based alternatives to animal products increased 17% from 2017 to 2018, according to Forbes, and the growing demand for meat substitutes is being reflected in the fast food industry.
Fast food companies such as Burger King and White Castle have joined the race to add fake meat substitutes to their menus in recent months, according to Earther, and several chains have rolled out new vegetarian and vegan products within the last week.
Del Taco now offers a taco made with Beyond Meat’s pea-protein substitute, and Burger King has pledged to make its meatless Impossible Whopper available nationwide by the end of 2019. Although McDonald’s does not currently offer a fake meat burger in the United States, it launched a vegan burger in Germany earlier this week.
As two leading companies in the industry, Beyond Meat and Impossible are working on building brand relationships with fast food companies. Beyond Meat became a public company this month, with its debut stock price coming in at 163% above its initial public offering (IPO) the first day. The company has now raised a quarter of a billion dollars to improve and grow its offering of products, according to MarketWatch, and become the best performing first-day IPO in almost 20 years.
Because the meat industry contributes approximately 15% of all global greenhouse gas emissions, choosing fake meat alternatives is considered more environmentally friendly, according to Earther. In its IPO, Beyond Meat stated its burgers use 46% less overall energy, 99% less water, 93% less land and are responsible for 90% fewer gas emissions.
While plant-based options sometimes cost more (Del Taco’s fake meat taco costs $1 more than its meat taco) the impact, or lack thereof, that these products have on the environment makes them a more sustainable consumer decision.
However, some companies, critics and individuals have concerns about the long-term viability of the fake meat industry. Yahoo! Finance, Earther, and Bloomberg have all published articles on Beyond Meat’s IPO in the last week, expressing doubts that the company can turn a profit or achieve its estimated valuation of $1.5 billion.
That being said, while consumers may have doubts about whether companies like Beyond Meat are worth investing in, there’s little risk in trying one of the new plant-based fast food options for yourself. Although McDonald’s and Burger King have yet to roll out plant-based options in Indiana, consumers can expect Burger King’s Impossible Whopper to arrive in the Hoosier state within the next six months.