McDonald’s plants a meatless stake with McPlant, its own plant-based product
McDonald’s is finally preparing to launch two of the most talked-about products in fast-food: a meatless burger of its own making, dubbed McPlant, and a new fried chicken sandwich that stands to be more competitive than its existing McChicken.
Details about McPlant, which McDonald’s executives said was developed internally, were limited during the company’s “Accelerating the Arches” investor presentation on Monday.
Just the spark of news that McDonald’s opted to go out on its own with a plant-based product was enough to spook investors in Beyond Meat. After all, that plant-based product maker teamed up with McDonald’s Canada last year on a limited test, raising hopes that once McDonald’s was ready to go further with plant-based products it would opt to do so with Beyond Meat. Later in the day, Beyond Meat clarified its connection to the project, stating that "Beyond Meat and McDonalds co-created the plant-based patty which will be available as part of the McPlant platform.” Still, that doesn't make it clear which suppliers, if any, might be working with McDonald's on other meatless products.
Beyond Meat’s rival Impossible Foods already works with McDonald’s biggest burger rival, Burger King. So the prevailing theory was that McDonald’s would look to another patty purveyor rather than work with the one that supplies the patties for the Impossible Whopper.
The name McPlant will take some getting used to but definitely beats something like McMeatless or McVeggieBurger.
The world’s largest restaurant company appears to have big aspirations for McPlant. Executives said the McPlant platform works for burgers, chicken products and breakfast sandwiches. They said global markets can use McPlant when they’re ready, and that they expect some countries may test it out next year based on consumer demand.
No details were shared on when McPlant might plant itself on the U.S. menu, where the focus is currently on beef, chicken and coffee. A rising number of people, including in the U.S., are reducing their meat consumption, even if they are not going fully vegetarian but, rather, are choosing a “flexitarian” diet.
Shares of Beyond Meat were down nearly 9% after McPlant was announced, then regained some ground, trading down 3% later in the session.
The other big product news of the day from McDonald’s was confirmation that it would introduce a new Crispy Chicken Sandwich in the U.S. in early 2021.
McDonald’s new sandwich is a bit of a departure from the popular chicken sandwiches served by rivals such as Chick-fil-A and Popeyes. Rather than having mayonnaise or a special sauce along with pickles, the McDonald’s version includes fried chicken, crinkle-cut pickles and butter on a toasted potato roll.
Globally, the chicken category is almost twice as large as beef, said Joe Erlinger, president of McDonald’s U.S., during a morning presentation. The chain’s goal, he said, is to “strengthen our credibility in chicken.”
The new chicken sandwich will replace an existing sandwich that will be pulled from the menu, Erlinger said, without confirming which product would be cut. Erlinger also said the McChicken is a “loved” product in the U.S., which suggests it wouldn’t be removed from the menu. Along with the more value-focused McChicken, which includes shredded lettuce and mayo on a standard bun, McDonald’s currently sells a higher-end buttermilk crispy chicken sandwich, which comes with tomato, shredded lettuce and mayo on a fancier roll.
McDonald’s has definitely taken its time versus rivals in cooking up a new chicken sandwich. And the premise of time ticking away, suggestive of excitement building for the sandwich launch, was played up in a teaser video the chain posted on Monday.