A marketing stunt from PETA, the animal-rights group and a longtime McDonald’s Corp. adversary, has given a short-term sales boost to the fast-food chain’s plant-based burger.
The nonprofit group worked with McDonald’s operators in Texas and California to buy the McPlant burgers, sans cheese and mayo, in bulk for a giveaway that began in late March. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals says that McDonald’s, which is testing the plant-based burgers in 600 locations, can help reduce animal suffering by selling more of them.
Joey Blanton, a McDonald’s franchisee in Fort Worth, Texas, said PETA’s giveaway helped goose sales for the new item that he’s selling for $5.39 -- a comparable price to a bigger sandwich such as a Quarter Pounder.
“We saw an uptick in sales after that,” he said. “PETA bought basically a bulk purchase for them to give away, that alone helped our numbers on the units sold per week,” he said, without giving specific figures. Blanton said it’s not unusual for his six restaurants to get large orders from buyers such as sports teams and other groups.
Before the McPlant arrived, it would have been hard to imagine PETA helping McDonald’s in any way. The group has long protested the treatment of livestock in the supply chains of McDonald’s and other fast-food operators. Now, PETA wants to help new plant-based offerings to displace these companies’ signature items. It has also touted KFC’s trial run of faux chicken nuggets -- a stark reversal for the nonprofit that used to target KFC with images of Colonel Sanders soaked in blood.
PETA’s ‘ultimate goal’
Adding the McPlant to the menu permanently “will save millions of animals’ lives, which is our ultimate goal,” said Marley Delgado, a coordinator for PETA’s McPlant campaign. “It’s helping sales, getting the word out there.”
Both the McPlant and KFC’s plant-based chicken nuggets were developed with Beyond Meat Inc. Delgado said that chains’ move to offer nonmeat options shows change is coming to the industry. It’s unclear, however, how much plant-based meat will ultimately reduce meat demand, since adding it to menus is frequently cited as a way to bring in new customers, rather than change current customers’ preferences.