Daily Insights

Meatless Meals

By: Mackenzie Baker | Nov 10, 2020

McDonald’s unveils a plant-based, vegetarian burger in an appeal to environmentally-conscious consumers. 

The latest menu addition at McDonald’s will be the McPlant Burger, which includes a meatless patty on a traditional hamburger bun. The burger will include all the traditional toppings of a Big Mac or classic Cheeseburger, but features a plant patty from brand Beyond Meat instead of a traditional meat patty. The McPlant will serve as a hamburger substitute, though McDonald’s plans to extend its meatless options to chicken sandwiches and breakfast sandwiches in the future. McDonald’s is testing the McPlant in certain markets through the end of the year, with plans to release the burger globally beginning in 2021. Rolling out the McPlant allows McDonald’s to compete with other quick-service restaurant offerings, including Subway’s Meatless Meatball Marinara, Burger King’s “Impossible” Whopper, and Dunkin’s Beyond Sausage Breakfast Sandwich. As consumer demand for meat alternatives continues to rise around the world, offering its own meat substitute could help McDonald’s meet competitors and tap into a new market of restaurant consumers. 

Meat alternatives have been shown to benefit the fight against climate change, and as more restaurants pledge to improve sustainability, it makes sense that offering plant-based options would be the next step in their journey. For McDonald’s, the McPlant marks a first step into its image as a consciously eco-friendly establishment. The announcement of the McPlant could also help McDonald’s sustain engagement with meat alternative consumers, particularly as it simultaneously unveiled a new Crispy Chicken Sandwich and the return of the McRib. By leveling its meat offerings with a plant-based patty, McDonald’s could connect with more consumers, including those who eat meat and those who do not. McDonald’s is holding off on social media promotions of the McPlant until the end of the year, dedicating its channels instead to the fan-favorite McRib. Though McDonald’s is holding off on marketing the McPlant, announcing its release now could help cook up anticipation and organic traction online until it actually hits menus early next year, according to a Gartner report on the topic.  

The arrival of the McPlant shows how McDonald’s responds to customers in an era of rapidly changing preferences. While the McPlant could appeal to a specific demographic, its arrival could also inspire a longer list of plant-based alternatives in the future, as well as encourage other restaurants to move beyond meat.