The plant-based food market is heating up in the U.S., and companies are looking to cash in.
This week Panda Express announced its plan to team up with Beyond Meat (BYND) to bring Beyond the Original Orange Chicken to select locations nationwide. Beyond Meat unveiled its new, plant-based chicken tenders a week prior to this launch, with its key ingredient being a fava bean.
The company is just the latest in a growing number of restaurant chains to embrace the meatless revolution. a release, Panda Express boasted that it was the first national Asian eatery to put Beyond on its menu.
Known for menu staples like its Original Orange Chicken, Panda Express stated it has “significant brand equity in this staple American Chinese comfort food,” but is ready to take the next step by offering the plant-based alternatives. And with food companies riding a wave of health conscious alternatives, Panda is clearly hoping to lure younger, first-time diners as well.
“Creating a fresh new take on a classic favorite isa great and accessible way to introduce plant-based proteins to our guests, and perhaps even drawing a new audience for Panda,” the company said this week.
And other companies are on the hunt to get a stake in this rapidly growing plant-based protein and vegan market, where growth has skyrocketed 227 percent compared to a year ago, according to data intelligence platform tastewise.
In the last couple of years, chains like KFC, Burger King, Starbucks (SBUX), Dunkin’ Donuts and Shake Shack have all carved out space on their menus for alternative meat options — though the latter has downplayed the prospect of joining forces with Beyond Meat.
In June, tech entrepreneur Alexis Ohanian’s fund, Seven Seven Six, led a $50 million dollar Series B for the plant-based chicken company SIMULATE. Founder and CEO Ben Pasternak told Yahoo Finance he intends to use the latest funding round to hire top talent including food, material and flavor scientists and engineers ahead of scaling beyond direct-to-consumer and retail. Most recently the company introduced plant-based chicken patty DISCS.
Powerhouse consumer good company Kellogg’s (K) hopes to take a bite out of this market with the recent introduction of Incogmeato Chik’n Tenders. According to the company, the product “captures the feel of tear-apart chicken tenders thanks to technology that creates fibers to mimic the texture of real chicken.”
Pinky Cole, the owner of Slutty Vegan in Atlanta, has been in the vegan market for the past seven years, but believes that plant-based meat demand will explode “within the next 10 years,” she said in a recent interview with Yahoo Finance.
“It just goes to show you that this [vegan options] is what people are asking for, so you have to fulfill the demand,” Cole said in May, adding that “it shows you that people are getting more conscious” about what they eat.