In a few years, fast food menus might be very different to what we see today. Why? More fast food chains are serving vegetarian and vegan options.

You might have heard that KFC launched their vegan fried chicken in Atlanta. Well, the “finger lickin’ good” chicken is not the only fast food chain to serve vegetarian and vegan options. Back in April, Burger King began testing the Impossible Whopper, a plant-based burger that tastes very similar to their classic Whopper. Dunkin’ (Donuts) is serving a plant-based sausage in one of their breakfast sandwiches. In North America, you can also find vegan or vegetarian options at Del Taco, Tim Horton’s, TGIF, Hard Rock Café…

These restaurants try different things: sandwiches might be completely free of meat, or have a veggie patty in between the buns or – like at Burger King and KFC – have a plant-based meat alternative. They often come from Impossible Foods or Beyond Meat, two California-based meat substitute start-ups. Their products are designed to replace beef, pork or chicken for vegans or vegetarians, but still taste like meat.

Why are fast food chains turning to plant-based options? Well, they might be trying to attract a vegetarian and vegan clientele, but the market is actually not that big. Even if it seems like more and more people are becoming vegetarians or vegans, a 2018 Gallup survey showed that there are not more vegans and vegetarians in the US than there used to be. But, there is an increase in sales for plant-based meat and an interest in alternative foods.

An explanation behind this shift in diet might be activism (fighting to stop animal abuse in animal farms or preserving the environment); some might be looking for a healthier diet; others might be influenced by today’s vegetarianism trend. A lot of celebrities have become vegetarians or vegans. They tend to promote their new lifestyle in the media. Beyonce and Jay-Z, one of the most influencial celebrities alive, want people to become vegan. In January for example, they challenged fans to become vegetarians in the hope of winning a lifetime of concert tickets.

The thing is, veganism and vegetarianism are trends among people with a higher education and millennials. Vegan restaurants are flourishing in big cities but not much elsewhere and they can be quite expensive. So vegan or vegetarian fast foods could be an introduction to a healthier lifestyle for a wider population.

Article by Juliette Cardinale