Gastronomy & Food Service

Beyond Meat and Taco Bell Still Working on New Plant-Based Meat

  •  Despite rumors of a cancellation, Beyond Meat and Taco Bell confirm the brands are still actively working together

Beyond Meat and Taco Bell want to officially end the rumors. According to a joint statement, the two companies have no plans to end their partnership, as some recent news reports have speculated. On the contrary, both brands say they are enthusiastically moving ahead with perfecting and test-launching an innovative plant-based protein for Taco Bell’s menu. These latest statements come in response to a widely-circulated Bloomberg story suggesting discord erupted over an unsuccessful product sample.

A high-profile partnership

In order to understand the mini-publicity saga that took place, it’s best to re-visit the story of how Beyond Meat and Taco Bell’s relationship originally began. In early 2020, new Taco Bell CEO Mark King expressed great interest in plant-based meat, especially Beyond Meat’s products, and proclaimed the global fast food chain would add meat alternatives to the menu within a year. 

The brand followed through and test-launched the Cravetarian taco in select locations in California and the Detroit metro region this year. The Cravetarian features a proprietary “boldly seasoned” plant-based meat recipe made from chickpeas and pea protein. Unfortunately, many online reviews suggest the house-made meat alternative didn’t fully live up to expectations, with one prominent reviewer calling it “very disappointing”. 

Taco Bell Cravetarian Taco
©Taco Bell

Enter Beyond Meat. In February, Beyond Meat signed a major, multi-year deal with Yum! Brands, the global owner of Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut restaurants. The agreement made Beyond Meat the preferred supplier of plant-based meat alternatives for all Yum! Brands, and secured Taco Bell and Beyond Meat’s relationship a year after Taco Bell’s CEO praised the taste of Beyond Meat’s food.

Progress appeared to be moving smoothly ahead, with the two companies collaborating on brand new meat alternatives. Then, last week, a Bloomberg report citing two unnamed sources revealed surprising news: In October, Taco Bell unexpectedly rejected samples of Beyond Meat’s plant-based carne asada. According to Bloomberg, the pilot product – meant to replicate Taco Bell’s grilled carne asada steak – did not meet the fast food company’s standards and was abruptly sent back. 

Beyond Meat Zandbergen
©Beyond Meat

Details surrounding the rejection are unclear; particularly what aspects of the sample – the look, taste, or texture – Taco Bell did not approve of.  No matter the reasons, the negative reception reportedly led Beyond Meat to fire two employees involved in the product’s development.

A clarification 

As the Bloomberg story spread, Beyond Meat and Taco Bell swiftly countered with a joint statement on the experimental nature of product launches, and assured the two brands were still very much collaborating: “Evaluating multiple iterations when scaling a product is standard practice in our industry. The bottom line is that our partnership with Taco Bell is strong and continuing, and we look forward to further announcements with them,” a Beyond Meat spokesperson told The Street

On Tuesday, Taco Bell further emphasized the company’s position in a new press release highlighting the chain’s intentions to expand plant-based options: “We’re partnering with Beyond Meat to develop and introduce an innovative plant-based protein that is completely new to the national QSR space. As expected, creating a product that is so revolutionary takes time and we could not be more excited about what we have planned in the coming months – stay tuned!”

With these official announcements, it appears the speculation can soundly end, and the world can once again anticipate Beyond Meat’s next groundbreaking launch. 

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