Steak replacements are the holy grail of the plant-based world, and Beyond Meat is making their first run at a product alongside Taco Bell.
The two companies will be offering a Beyond Carne Asada Steak at select locations in Dayton, Ohio as a trial run of the new menu item.
Beyond Meat has a pretty tight relationship with Taco Bell's parent company, Yum! Brands, which also owns KFC.
Yum!'s chicken chain has Beyond Meat's nuggets on its menu, and the purveyor of premium plant-based beef and chicken replacements is also supplying meat alternatives to Yum!'s Pizza Hut chain (Habit Burger, another franchise owned by Yum!, uses Impossible Foods for its meat-alternative options).
“At Taco Bell, we’ve long believed that anyone should be able to choose plant-based menu items without compromising the flavors they crave,” said Liz Matthews, Taco Bell's Global Chief Food Innovation Officer, in a statement. “That’s why we at Taco Bell are thrilled to reveal the result of our long-standing partnership with Beyond Meat, which is previously unseen in the QSR industry. This plant-based carne asada steak is just the latest move in our history of crafting some of the most unique, craveworthy offerings for all fans.”
The Beyond Carne Asada will first appear in the company's quesadilla and will be priced just like the steak product climate advocates should be hoping it can supplant. Taco Bell did say that the Beyond Carne Asada could be added to any of the company's menu items, thanks to the customizable menu at the 'Bell.
“We know that consumers are looking for diverse protein options that are better for the planet without compromising on taste, so we’re incredibly excited to launch our brand-new, innovative Beyond Carne Asada Steak,” said Dariush Ajami, Beyond Meat’s Chief Innovation Officer. “Designed to specifically complement the bold, savory flavors that Taco Bell is known for, Beyond Carne Asada Steak delivers the flavorful, delicious taste and texture of marinated, grilled steak with the added benefits of plant-based meat.”
A reporter from Fast Company was able to try the steak at a tasting event in Manhattan and came away with rave reviews.
"Believe it, folks, the uncanny valley has never tasted so good," wrote Fast Company's Christopher Zara.
The product that Beyond Meat has developed for Taco Bell won't be appearing on store shelves or with any other restaurant chain. It's a strategy that could chart the course that Beyond pursues for growth.
And success at Taco Bell would be a big boost for the company after a trial run on a burger with McDonald's failed to excite consumers.
That test was a disappointment for both companies, according to reporting from CNBC.
Analysts wrote that the McPlant sales disappointed -- coming in at or below the low end of their projections and that the sales had put a potential nationwide rollout at risk.
Still, as the Taco Bell announcement shows, Beyond Meat has some sizzle left in its product development pipeline. The question will be whether the Taco Bell consumer will be more inclined to try a vegetarian option that's mimicking meat.