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Plant-based chicken is taking center stage in 2022.
KFC is the latest chain to introduce a vegan-friendly chicken option. It partnered with Beyond Meat for a limited run of Beyond Fried Chicken across the U.S.
The announcement came shortly after it was revealed that Burger King would launch its own vegan nuggets in the U.K. made by plant-based meat company The Vegetarian Butcher, reported Livekindly (Jan. 4). The nuggets join the Vegan Royal chicken-style sandwich, which was already on the menu.
These new developments leave one to wonder if plant-based chicken is becoming the new plant-based burger.
WHY ARE WE SEENG MORE PLANT-BASED CHICKEN?
It’s not exactly shocking that plant-based companies would target chicken as the next big product.
“Plant based chicken has huge potential because chicken is such a well-loved, versatile and common protein in consumer’s diets,” Marie Molde, a registered dietician at Datassential, told The Food Institute. “Chicken is ubiquitous on restaurant menus, it’s found on 95% of menus in the U.S. today (whereas burgers are found on roughly half as many menus) and is also globally popular.
Notably, chicken is so popular in the U.S. that it ranks as American’s most-consumed food, according to Datassential’s FLAVOR database, and 71% of consumers report having it regularly.
Alongside chicken’s favorability is the demand for plant-based options. One in five adults say they want more plant-based foods in their diets, according to The NPD Group’s Darren Seifer, who will be presenting at an upcoming Food Institute webinar on January 18 entitled 2022 Outlook of Plant-Based and Next Gen Protein.
“Chicken is the top animal protein consumed in the home,” Seifer told us. “Capturing just a fraction of traditional chicken occasions with plant-based options could allow it to rival the levels of plant-based beef consumption.”
WHAT ARE CONSUMERS LOOKING FOR IN A PRODUCT?
Seifer and Molde both agree that taste is ultimately the most important factor when it comes to making a product consumers will enjoy. It is important for companies to take a flavor-first approach in plant-based innovation, ensuring consumers won’t have to compromise on taste, Molde noted.
Beyond taste, health benefits are also important to consumers. “The overarching motivation that drives consumption of plant-based products is health and wellness so manufacturers would be wise the call out what consumers, such as protein, or what they’re avoiding, like sugars or saturated fats,” said Seifer.
Molde also added that protein content is key, as well as a clean label. “A growing base of consumers also prefer to see “clean label” innovation when it comes to plant-based, so the fewer and more recognizable ingredients that are used in plant-based alternatives, the better.”