Fast Food

Global Fast Food Chains Become Increasingly Plant-Friendly, Normalizing Sustainable Food

A report by ProVeg has found that the five leading global fast food chains — McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, Pizza Hut, and KFC — are increasingly offering a range of plant-based options.

The research looked at the plant-based dishes offered by the chains in Belgium, Czechia, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, South Africa, Spain, the UK, and the US. The chains were then ranked based on these findings, with main meals, sides, and desserts all taken into account.

Burger King tops the list

Burger King topped the list due to its wide range of animal-free main dishes. Yesterday (August 8) marked four years since the chain’s Impossible Whopper rolled out across the US; since then, plant-based Whoppers have become widely available in numerous countries, along with other animal-free options such as the Vegan Royale and plant-based nuggets. The chain is also notable for pledging to make 50% of its menu plant-based by 2030, along with opening meat-free popups in several countries.

Subway spicy vegan sub
© Subway

Second in the rankings is Subway, which clearly labels its plant-based options and allows customers to create their own vegan sandwiches. The chain offers meat alternatives in many countries, with plant-based beef slices launching at locations across northern Europe earlier this year.

McDonald’s comes in third, with its McPlant burger, vegan nuggets, and last year’s launch of dairy-free McFlurry ice cream in Germany. Fourth is Pizza Hut, which last year introduced vegan cheese by Violife across the UK and added three plant-based pizzas to menus in Germany.

Finally, there is KFC, which offers vegan burgers and fried chicken in some countries. The chain partnered with Quorn last year, with the aim of rolling out a meat-free range in thousands of European locations.

“We analyzed 43 online menus across all nine countries, and twenty-two of them (51%) offered at least one plant-based option,” said Josh Bisig, Senior Project Manager at ProVeg.

Double McPlant
© McDonald’s UK&I

Room for improvement

Despite the progress that has been made, ProVeg believes there is still room for improvement, and has made several suggestions to encourage consumers to choose more plant-based dishes. These include:

  • Listing menu options as plant-based by default.
  • Replacing animal-based menu items with plant-based ones.
  • Integrating plant-based options into main menus, but also including them on a separate plant-based menu.
  • Avoiding the use of the words “vegan”, “vegetarian”, and “meatless” when naming menu items, and minimizing the use of terms such as “plant-based” and “veggie” — instead, the focus should be on the food’s culinary theme, sensory properties, or brand.
  • Partnering with food manufacturers and retailers in the plant-based space.

“It is incredible to see how fast food – which has always revolved around animal meat consumption – has become more plant-friendly and, in doing so, more climate-friendly,” said Bisig. “Fast food chains are ubiquitous and play an important role in normalizing climate-friendly food for millions of people around the world who might not otherwise consider the negative impacts of food choices. And these chains are increasingly doing this by making plant-based options more available, tasty and affordable.”

Read our recent interview with Burger King here.

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