Pizza Hut announced today it has added two Beyond Meat items to its menu, becoming the first national pizza chain to jump on the plant-based protein trend at locations across the country.
Beyond’s rival, Impossible Foods, had a three-market test with Little Caesars restaurants in 2019 (the product sold out before the two-month trial ended), and Pizza Hut previously worked with Kellogg-owned brand Incogmeato for some local sampling of faux meat pizza toppings.
Pizza Hut follows in the footsteps of fast food heavyweights like the burger behemoths (Burger King, Carl’s Jr. and, coming soon, McDonald’s), breakfast-based brands (Starbucks, Dunkin) and Mexican restaurants (Chipotle, Qdoba) in adding meat substitutes to cater to a consumer base that increasingly describes itself as flexitarian and wants to cut back on real animal meat.
The pizza chain also takes a page from its own Yum Brands sibling KFC in collaborating with Beyond Meat. The chicken restaurant has been testing Beyond’s faux meat products, expanding from a single market into several states and the Southern California area when sales were brisk, beating even optimistic early projections.
Plant-based enthusiasts say the latest developments show the strength of the category.
“Let there be no doubt—plant-based foods have arrived,” said Sabina Vyas, senior director, strategic initiatives, Plant Based Foods Association. “Consumer demand is sky high, and retail sales of plant-based foods are way up.”
Fast food chains are “clearly committed,” she added, anticipating 2021 to be an “explosive year” ahead for the industry.
Tuesday’s Pizza Hut news followed a McDonald’s investor meeting on Monday where the burger giant said it plans to add a faux burger called the McPlant (also the name of the broader veggie-friendly platform with chicken nuggets and breakfast sausage to come later).
Though execs didn’t credit Beyond during the call, the Los Angeles-based brand later issued a statement saying it “co-created” the upcoming burger product with McDonald’s.
Starting today in the U.S. and select venues in London, Pizza Hut will have two Beyond-branded pizzas on its menu: Beyond Italian Sausage Pizza and the Great Beyond, which features onion, tomato and banana peppers. Both feature a faux sausage blend that was created specifically for the chain. (It’s not the same Beyond sausage that’s available at grocery stores or chains like Dunkin. The Pizza Hut version contains garlic, paprika, fennel seeds and other ingredients).
David Graves, Pizza Hut’s chief brand officer, said he’d “challenge anyone to go try the new Beyond Pan Pizza and tell the difference” between the faux product and real sausage.
Beyond, a pioneer in a plant-based category that’s becoming even more crowded with traditional meat manufacturers entering the fray, plans to “continue to raise the bar on game-changing product innovation” with the Pizza Hut deal, according to the brand’s founder and CEO, Ethan Brown.