Fast Food Giants Using Different Plant-Based Protein Ingredients in War for Vegan Customer Base

Fast Food Giants Using Different Plant-Based Protein Ingredients in War for Vegan Customer Base

USA News Group – There’s been a major shift in the fast food space, as multiple burger empires are jockeying for position with vegans, vegetarians, and flexitarians. The latest development in the plant-based faux burger war is developing between Restaurant Brands International Inc. (NYSE:QSR) (TSX:QSR) subsidiary Burger KingMcDonalds’s Corporation (NYSE:MCD), and even The Wendy’s Company (NASDAQ:WEN). In 2020, the plant-based food market totaled $29.4 billion, and according to Statista it’s expected to grow to $77.8 billion by 2025. Each fast-food giant has a different take on what they offer as vegan-friendly menu options, with a number of different suppliers providing different types of ingredients. There’s plenty of innovation in the field, from Impossible Foods (soy), Beyond Meat, Inc. (NASDAQ:BYND) (peas), or even potentially from newcomer Nepra Foods (CSE:NPRA) (OTC:NPRFF) (hemp).

Late last year, during what was dubbed the “worst drought in over a century” in both North American and South America, supply shocks hit pea protein suppliers, as well as impacting 50% of the world’s soybean supply. Whereas, there’s another type of plant-protein that’s less likely to be hit as hard because it’s a hearty, drought-resistant crop, is hemp. Anecdotal reports from late 2021 had American hemp farmers seeing a 12.5% drop in production.

Hemp protein is an excellent source of plant-based protein, which Nepra touts how its products are nutritious plant-based and allergen-free that are lean, rich in amino acids, a good source of iron, magnesium and manganese, and may even prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Though not technically producing hamburgers at this point, plant-based protein allergen-free food innovators Nepra Foods (CSE:NPRA) (OTC:NPRFF) and their proprietary asset known as Textured Hemp ProteinTM (THP) are built to provide ingredients to food giants with hemp-based products.

Earlier this year, Nepra announced the full operations of its first dedicated extrusion line from new extruder equipment at its Colorado facility, which the company says will exponentially increase ingredient output and boost overall sales revenue.

"Having our own textured protein equipment is key to our plan of being vertically integrated,” said Nepra CEO David Wood. “Being able to produce our own allows us to formulate the proteins specifically for what we need while retaining the intellectual property of that formulation and keeping the costs as low as possible. While most everyone in this space is using pea, soy, gluten, and faba bean, our texturized hemp protein has superior flavor, texture, and, most importantly, nutrition. It will be the first like it on the market."

This specialized equipment can produce Texturized Hemp Protein, THP™ (800,000 lbs./year) that is used in plant-based meat analogues such as vegan meatballs and chunk chicken, used in Nepra’s product lines with additional capacity sold wholesale to other food producers.

Consistent with a new report published by Allied Market Research, the global texturized vegetable protein (TVP) market size was valued at $987.9 million in 2019 and is projected to reach $2.14 billion by 2027, registering a CAGR of 9.2% from 2021 to 2027.

Nepra’s wholesale THP™ sales alone are expected to boost company revenue by up to US$3.5 million annually.

Beyond Meat, Inc. (NASDAQ:BYND) is the current king supplier of plant-based burgers (made from pea proteins) in the fast food world. It provides for the McPlant for McDonalds’s Corporation (NYSE:MCD).

“Launching the McPlant is a major inflection point for alternative proteins—not only for food service, but also for retail, as the McPlant provides consumers a new opportunity to try a plant-based product in a familiar, convenient setting,” said Emma Ignaszewski, corporate engagement project manager at Good Food Institute, a nonprofit that studies the alternative-meat industry. “McDonald’s is investing its brand equity in the McPlant platform, the same brand equity that it invested in the McNugget in the 1980s that led to the popularization of the chicken nugget.”

The McPlant has so far been a success, as McDonald’s and Beyond Meat saw earlier this year that their new offering sold better than expectedPiper Sandler analyst Michael Lavery wrote that Beyond’s US revenues could be boosted as high as $215 million by the project.

Restaurant Brands International Inc. (NYSE:QSR) has decided to go in a different direction, away from Beyond Meat, after pulling Beyond Meat products from its menus in 2019 and 2020. However, a casting call asking for people “open to eating some plant-based foods” was announced in February 2022, signalling another foray into veggie friendly breakfast sandwiches again.

At Restaurant Brands’ flagship asset subsidiary Burger King, the company has gone even deeper than most of its competitors to capture the vegan market. Recently Burger King announced it was opening its first vegan-only restaurant.

“The limited-edition menu is a direct result of our focus on vegan and plant-based innovation and goes hand in hand with our target of a 50% meat-free menu by 2030, as well as our commitment to sustainability and responsible business”, said Katie Evans, Chief Marketing Officer of Burger King UK

Another popular Restaurant Brands International chain, Popeyes also launched its first vegan-chicken burger last November—dubbed the Creole Red Bean Sandwich, that was rolled out at the parent company’s first UK location.

Also using a bean-based set of ingredients is The Wendy’s Company (NASDAQ:WEN). Instead of using Beyond Meat or ImpossibleWendy’s took a different route, deciding not to use a meat alternative, but instead lean into recognizable vegetables.

“Consumers are demanding plant-based sandwiches, and we’re answering the call in a way that only Wendy’s can with a mouthwatering sandwich packed with multiple layers of heat and flavor,” said Carl Loredo, the U.S. Chief Marketing Officer for The Wendy’s Company, in a press release.

Wendy’s is known for developing its products in-house, and the spicy black bean patty was no exception.

“Demand for plant-based proteins has exploded during the past 10 years,” said a Wendy’s spokesperson in an interview with VegNews. “As a company striving to meet our fans where they are and deliver incredible taste and flavor, we identified a culinary opportunity to craft a plant-based protein in a uniquely Wendy’s way. Guided by our food vision, Fast Food Done Right, we’ve been carefully tracking the plant-based trend and exploring the best, most craveable way to introduce it to Wendy’s fans.”

In 2019Wendy’s also tested a pea protein-based patty (much like the Beyond Meat model) on its Canadian menus, called The Plantiful Burger.

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