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Is Chicken the Plant-Based Meat of 2020?

In 2019, we watched as plant-based beef alternatives exploded onto the scene. Sit-down restaurants and fast-food restaurants alike began offering plant-based burgers to an ecstatic audience. This year, it’s becoming apparent that the demand for meatless “meats” doesn’t stop with beef. Indeed, 2020 is shaping up to be the year of plant-based “chicken.”

 

Plant-based chicken isn’t a new product. Grocery stores have had vegan and vegetarian chicken alternatives in their frozen-foods aisles for years now. However, we are now seeing a considerable increase in the demand for these products and an interest in being able to order them in restaurants as well as buy them in stores.

 

The first platform for plant-based chicken besides grocery stores and specialty markets was fast-food eateries in late 2019. We began seeing these experimental first products expand in early 2020 in the form of plant-based chicken nuggets, fried chicken, chicken sandwiches, and more. Why the huge explosion now? There are several potential factors:

 

  • Production challenges. Developing a chicken alternative with an authentic meat-like texture and taste of real chicken may have been more difficult than developing the beef alternatives that have become so popular.
  • The recent meteoric rise of the chicken sandwich. In the last year, the humble chicken sandwich has burst into the spotlight in a big way. Fast-food chains and  other restaurants are responding to this new interest with a wide range of delicious chicken sandwiches, making this the perfect time to introduce a plant-based option.
  • The increasing popularity of the plant-based sector in general. The amazing performance of last year’s “beef” products has served as proof-of-concept for a growing plant-based category of foods and convinced industry leaders that plant-based proteins are no longer a niche product.

 

Of course, the ongoing coronavirus situation will indeed have an impact on momentum going forward, as restaurants of all types adjust to a new normal. Especially in areas heavily affected by the pandemic, restaurants are struggling with a decrease in traffic amidst new government restrictions.

 

However, everyone has to eat, and that isn’t going to change. Furthermore, the popularity of delivery skyrocketed even before the pandemic began. Restaurants may need to rely more on delivery for a while than they ever expected, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If there’s ever been a time to make a name for yourself and ensure that you stand out from the competition, it’s now. Plant-based chicken alternatives are a fantastic place to start.