As consumers continue to turn away from unhealthy food products, fast food chains have been introducing new and healthy menu options in order to stay afloat in this new health-focused market. Most recently, KFC has hit headlines with their announcement to invest in vegetarian meat offerings. The UK division of the iconic Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise will be introducing vegetarian “fried chicken” to their menus while using the same 11 herbs and spices used in their traditional fried chicken recipe.
The move comes after Public Health England (PHE) introduced new health guidelines in an effort to tackle childhood and adult obesity in the country. PHE specifically challenged the food industry to reduce the calories of their products by 20 percent, which would prevent more than 35,000 premature deaths.
KFC’s new meat-free “fried chicken” option is said to be inspired by these new health guidelines. Additionally, the chain plans on introducing new meal options that are under 600 calories by 2020. KFC also plans on cutting the calories of their servings by 20 percent over the next seven years. To start, the fast-food company is currently working on completing the recipe for their first ever vegetarian chicken product.
“Once we’ve perfected the recipe we aim to test with customers this year, and if all goes well, we hope to launch a new vegetarian option in 2019,” KFC told Food Beast.
The food giant seems to be following in the footsteps of other major fast-food retailers. Late last year, McDonald’s introduced their first vegan burger, the McVegan, in their restaurant chains in Sweden and Finland. In the US, fast-food burger chain White Castle is serving vegan sliders made from Impossible Burger patties and are reportedly selling 300 vegan sliders a day. In addition, Burger King also offers a vegetarian burger made with vegan Morning Star patties.
KFC’s US division told Food Beast that they have no plans associated with their UK test product at this time. However, if this test launch is successful the chain would be wise to introduce this new product to the North American market. Last year, American consumers spent $698.6 million on meat substitutes, which is a 25.6 percent increase from $556.3 million spent in 2012.
It’s clear that the vegan/vegetarian protein market is on the rise which is why major retailers and fast food chains are investing in new plant-based protein products. As this trend continues to grow, we are likely to see more major players in the food industry introduce new meat alternatives.