Fast food is popular – over one third of the population eat at least one fast food meal every day. We want more people to choose a plant-based meal rather than an animal-based one, so it’s important to ensure that fast food restaurants have some tasty vegan options.
Many fast food restaurant chains are cautiously dipping their toes into the market to see what the demand is like for plant-based options. Here are some examples we’ve heard about:
- Starbucks is currently doing a limited trial of six new food items in three locations in Washington DC and Virginia, and their oatmeal breakfast item is available nationwide as a staple. For the first time last Fall, they offered a special vegan-by-default drink, the Apple Crisp Oatmilk Macchiato.
- Subway tested a Meatless Meatball Marinara sandwich at 600 locations in the US and Canada in 2019, and that option is now available across Canada, although not in the US yet.
- McDonalds have signed a 3-year contract with Beyond Meat to test out various plant-based options in European locations. They are testing the McPlant burger here in the US so we hope they will plan to roll it out nationally soon.
- Burger King has been offering their Impossible Whopper for several years across the US. They are currently testing a plant-based chicken sandwich at select locations.
- Chipotle has been offering their plant-based protein, Sofritas (a tofu-based vegan protein) available at all locations for several years now. This year, they are adding two new plant-based options in their Lifestyle Bowls – the Veggie Full Bowl which is based on white rice, black beans and fajita veggies, and the Plant-Powered Bowl which includes supergreens, Sofritas, and fajita veggies, along with the salsa and guacamole.
- Taco Bell unveiled its first vegan beef option, called “the real seasoned plant-based protein” in 2021 and has rolled it out to various test locations. Working with Beyond Meat, they have also launched a Beyond Carne Asada Steak, a vegan version of the chain’s marinated steak, at 50 test locations in Ohio.
Let’s hope that the many test products from these various fast food companies are successful, and are rolled out to restaurants nationwide as soon as possible!
We may be seeing a lot more plant-based options from Starbucks in the near future thanks to its new “Greener Stores” concept – Starbucks’ sustainability campaign that aims to open 10,000 environmentally conscious stores by 2025. Starbucks is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and experimenting with sustainable, especially plant-based food and beverage options. Launched in 2017 alongside the World Wildlife Fund, the program intends to focus on promoting ethically sourced menus and prioritizing sustainable practice. That means more plant-based options.
For instance, at the Starbucks Shanghai Greener Store, over half the menu is plant-based. Oatmilk is used as the default option for most beverages. Starbucks has also introduced two new plant-based beverages, available for a limited time only – Salted Caramel Breve and Salted Caramel Flat White. The store offers a scrumptious variety of plant-based food offerings, including the debut of 15 new food items. A range of plant-based bakery, wraps, sandwiches, salads, cakes and pastries are available to satisfy customers’ craving at any time of the day.
The Greener Stores concept falls under Starbucks’ mission to cut its carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and they want to enhance its new planet-positive practices in order to achieve that goal. CEO Kevin Johnson recognizes the rising demand for sustainable and plant-based options in consumers worldwide, and says that the company would strive to meet this changing demand. “If I were to say what is probably the most dominant shift in consumer behavior, [it] is this whole shift to plant-based [products],” Johnson said. “And that is a shift both in beverage and in food.”
This all sounds pretty good. But it would sound even better if its Shanghai store were followed by one in Seattle. Come on Starbucks!
Oh, yes! Starbucks just added a new vegan cold beverage to its permanent menu. The Iced Vanilla Bean Coconutmilk Latte is now a permanent offering. This vegan espresso beverage will keep you going all year long.
The new beverage is part of their commitment to serving more plant-based options. This demonstrates that Starbucks has confidence in the growing plant-based trend. Starbucks has made significant strides in better catering to its vegan customers. In recent months, it has added vegan macadamia cookies, 3D popsicles, protein-packed cold brews, packaged savory wraps, and coffee smoothies in select locations. The company has also expanded its snack range, offering vegan Hippeas packs, and Justin’s peanut and almond butter cups.
Other coffee companies have also gotten into the act. For instance, Peet’s Coffee has vegan whipped cream. It also has a “Coffee Meets Coconut” summer menu which included 3 vegan-friendly beverages made with the new whip.
Let’s hope all the coffee shops continue to increase their plant-based options.
The bug in question is the Cochineal Dactylopius coccus. Its body and eggs gets ground up and processed to produce a red dye that’s used in many food products. The dye can be listed under several names such cochineal extract or carmine.
Needless to say cochineal, like all other insects, is not vegetarian ( nor does it meet the requirements of Jewish Kosher or Moslem Hallal). We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, always check the ingredients. Take nothing for granted. Most ingredients can be googled.
It turns out that Starbucks has been using the bug dye in several of its products including Strawberries & Crème Frappuccino blended beverage, Strawberry Banana Smoothie, Raspberry Swirl Cake, Birthday Cake Pop, Mini Donut with pink icing and Red Velvet Whoopie Pie.
While carmine is used in a wide variety of foods, and even as a coloring agent in many vitamin and nutritional supplements and even cosmetics, somehow we expected better from Starbucks. It turns out that we weren’t the only ones with higher expectations.
According to Starbucks, “As a company, we always strive to exceed our customers’ expectations and we take their feedback very seriously. Based on recent customer feedback, we learned that we fell short of these expectations by using cochineal extract.”
To remedy the situation Starbucks will transition over to using tomato derived Lycopene. “This transition will occur over time as we finalize revisions and manage production. Our intention is to be fully transitioned from existing product inventories to revised food and beverage offerings near the end of June across the U.S.”
In the meantime, our advice is to keep reading those labels on all the products you buy!