Taco Bell to Offer Plant-Based Fare Within a Year, New CEO Says

(Bloomberg) -- Taco Bell’s new chief executive officer is ready to embrace meat alternatives on the fast food chain’s menu, in contrast to a previous plan.

Plant-based proteins are coming to the menu in the next year at the Yum! Brands Inc.-owned chain, Taco Bell Chief Executive Officer Mark King said in an interview. That’s a reversal from Taco Bell’s earlier strategy to just tout its own vegetarian food.

“We definitely see that plant-based protein has a place on the menu,” King said. He has already met with faux-meat makers Beyond Meat Inc. and Impossible Foods Inc. in recent months. The company is still deciding what plant-based foods to feature on the menu, he said.

Taco Bell’s growth and performance is important to Yum Brands, especially as its Pizza Hut chain struggles to revive growth with store remodels and a focus on takeout. In addition to capitalizing on delivery, Taco Bell has recently turned to more digital options to entice customers. That’s helped the Mexican-inspired chain draw customers in the highly competitive, fast-food industry with same-store sales gaining 4% last quarter.

Meanwhile, competitors are also racing to add plant-based options as consumers look for fare that’s seen as healthier and environmentally friendly. McDonald’s Corp. is testing Beyond Meat’s alternative protein in Canada, while Burger King introduced its Impossible Whopper nationwide last year.

Taco Bell’s King said he sampled Beyond Meat’s items just last week and he’s a fan.

“I tried all the food which was really exciting, and way beyond my expectation,” said King, who is a veteran of Adidas and took over in August.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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