Hold the Meat: Report Shows How Food Franchises are Catering More to Plant-based Appetites
Five major fast food chains analysed globally for menu adaptation
A new report published by the food awareness organisation ProVeg
This review ranks each business in terms of how friendly they are to plant-based consumers with Burger King coming out in the top position.
Positive sentiments around plant-based foods have prevailed in recent years, leading to an increase in overall demand. The market for plant-based meat alternatives is predicted to double within the next few years, growing from USD 7.9 billion in 2022 to USD 15.7 billion in 2025. These developments reflect the growing value of the global plant-based food sector, estimated at USD 40.21 billion in 2021 and expected to reach USD 78.95 billion by 2028. The significant presence and demand for plant-based meat analogues in developing countries are expected to be a major driver in the growth of the segment.
Despite these positive developments, research by the Smart Protein project indicates that consumers looking for plant-based products when dining out are often faced with very limited options. For example, nearly half of flexitarian respondents stated that “There is not enough choice in plant-based food when I eat out,” which clearly highlights the fact that more plant-based products are needed in the food-service sector.
In order to assess the availability of plant-based offerings at fast-food chains across multiple countries, ProVeg used its scorecard methodology to rank the five biggest global fast-food chains in terms of the plant-based availability of their online menus. The countries sampled were Belgium, Czechia, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, South Africa, Spain, the UK, and the US.
Across all countries, ProVeg analysed 43 menus. Only 22 menus (51%) offered at least one plant-based option. In addition, of the menus analysed, only 85 main dishes were plant-based out of a total of 1,473 main dishes. Just under 6% of main dishes listed across all 43 menus were plant-based.
Burger King performed best out of the fast-food chains reviewed for this ranking, offering 30 plant-based main dishes out of 307 across all nine countries. The company has committed to making all of its menus 50% plant-based by 2030, in step with other Burger King efforts to promote plant-based eating – including opening its first plant-based location and implementing a plant-based-by-default ordering model at a location in Austria.
The fast-food industry, in adapting to and capitalising on the growing demand for plant-based foods can play a unique and influential role in promoting plant-based eating more broadly. By leveraging their popularity and widespread reach, leading fast-food chains have the power to shape consumer perceptions and compel positive changes in dietary choices. Changing what is available to customers can help to further normalise plant-based eating and increase plant-based purchases among mainstream consumers.
The plant-based food industry in South Africa is gradually developing, presenting a small yet expanding market for plant-based alternatives and quick-service menu choices. Although there was a recent reduction in vegetarians from 3% to 1%, the number of flexitarians increased from 6% to 10%. This increase in those seeking to reduce the level of animal-based meat, eggs, and dairy in their diets reflects the high degree of openness to plant-based eating across all consumer segments of South Africa.
One of the factors hindering the adoption of plant-based options in South Africa is the country’s economic downturn. Many consumers have shifted from plant-based meat replacements to more affordable protein sources such as lentils, beans, and frozen chicken.
Says Donovan Will, the Director of ProVeg South Africa; “While the ranking report highlights a few franchises that do have good plant-based options, the biggest take-away should be the numerous opportunities available to those franchises that don’t have any, as well as opportunities for local food manufacturers who can supply the franchises with these plant-based alternatives.”
The results of this ranking indicate that there has been definite growth and increased inclusion of plant-based options on the menus of the largest international fast-food chains. By far the most sizable opportunity for plant-based food adoption currently sits with meat-eating and flexitarian consumer groups who are interested in trying these options for reasons of taste, health and environmental sustainability.
ProVeg has concluded that all food service businesses should focus on improving their menus in two key ways: increasing the plant-based options and implementing menu strategies to encourage mainstream consumers to choose plant-based.
ProVeg South Africa published a domestically-focused fast food ranking in 2022 and is slated to release their 2023 report soon.
ProVeg South Africa – the official local NGO partner for Veganuary in South Africa
Wikus Engelbrecht– Communications Manager: wikus.engelbrecht@
About ProVeg South Africa:
ProVeg South Africa is the local branch of ProVeg International. ProVeg is an international food awareness organisation working to transform the global food system by replacing conventional animal-based products with plant-based and cultured alternatives.
ProVeg works with international decision-making bodies, governments, food producers, investors, the media, and the general public to help the world transition to a society and economy that are less dependent on animal agriculture and more sustainable for humans, animals, and the planet.
ProVeg has permanent-observer status with the UNFCCC, is accredited with UNEA, and has received the United Nations’ Momentum for Change Award.