Fast Food

McDonald’s Says McPlant Trial Was Unsuccessful in the US, Meanwhile Ongoing Expansion Continues in Europe

Joe Erlinger, the president of McDonald’s US, has said that trials of the McPlant burger in the country were not successful, despite the ongoing expansion of the menu option in Europe.

Speaking at the Wall Street Journal Global Food Forum in Chicago, Erlinger said the burger had been tested in two US cities — San Francisco and Dallas — but had not performed well enough in either one. Consequently, McDonald’s US does not have immediate plans to introduce plant-based options; however, Erlinger said the chain would continue to monitor the plant-based meat trend.

He noted that there was little demand for healthier options at McDonald’s US, with even salads having been discontinued due to poor sales. Additionally, he said the prices of plant-based products were often higher than meat-based options, which may discourage some consumers.

Double McPlant
© McDonald’s UK&I

European success

Despite the unsuccessful US trial, the McPlant burger — which is offered in collaboration with Beyond Meat — continues to perform well in Europe. In its Q1 2024 financial results, Beyond Meat cited the ongoing geographical expansion of the McPlant across Europe as one of the factors that could help the company achieve sustainable and profitable operations.

The McPlant rolled out in Switzerland and Slovenia last September, as flexitarianism continues to grow in popularity in both countries. The same month, McDonald’s Netherlands expanded its plant-based range with a new option, the McPlant Steakhouse. The chain also temporarily replaced its meat-based McKroket with a breaded jackfruit version, and placed meat-free options ahead of beef on menus to encourage customers to try them.

In the UK and Ireland, McDonald’s offered a double McPlant for last year’s Veganuary campaign, after reporting in 2022 that demand for the McPlant was particularly high in Ireland. McDonald’s also recently announced it was trialling vegan ice cream in the UK, indicating that demand for plant-based food remains strong in the country.

McPlant plant-based burger
© McDonald’s

“Significant market growth”

Circana research published last November found that out-of-home plant-based meat sales in Europe’s Big 5 countries (Germany, France, the UK, Italy, and Spain) had increased by 48% since 2019, further supporting the idea that plant-based demand is stronger in Europe than in the US.

Other fast food chains have also seen considerable success by launching plant-based options in the region; for example, Burger King has reported that one in three Whoppers in Belgium and one in five Whoppers in Germany are sold with plant-based patties.

“Plant-based products, particularly burgers, are experiencing significant market growth and are expected to sustain this momentum through 2024,” said Jochen Pinsker, Senior Vice President of European Foodservice at Circana. “This is particularly evident as the quality, taste, and texture of plant-based products have significantly improved compared to offerings from just a few years ago.”

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