Beyond Meat is rapidly releasing new products to help consumers make cruelty-free choices in every category. This week, the brand expanded its plant-based chicken portfolio with the launch of Beyond Popcorn Chicken and Beyond Chicken Nuggets at 5,000 Kroger and Walmart stores nationwide, along with select locations of Albertsons and Ahold.
The new vegan chicken products feature 50-percent less saturated fat than their animal-derived counterparts while delivering 14 grams of plant protein per serving. And because they are not derived from animals, the vegan chicken is free from hormones, antibiotics, and cholesterol. Sold frozen, the new product can be prepared in a few minutes in an air fryer or oven.
To promote its newest vegan chicken products, Beyond Meat enlisted reality television star and business mogul Kim Kardashian, the brand’s Chief Taste Officer.
“As a busy mom, I’m always looking for quick and easy options to feed my family that are both healthy and delicious,” Kardashian said in a video as she put Beyond Chicken Nuggets in an air fryer. “In less than 10 minutes, you can make a delicious plant-based protein option that everyone in the family absolutely loves. It’s the easiest way yet to Go Beyond.”
The company created a locator tool to easily track down the availability of the new Beyond Popcorn Chicken and Beyond Chicken Nuggets, along with other Beyond Meat products.
Beyond Meat’s new vegan chicken
While Beyond Meat may be best known for its Beyond Burger—a beef alternative it released in 2016—the vegan brand is a major player in other plant-based meat categories, including chicken.
Before the Beyond Burger, Beyond Meat first launched plant-based chicken pieces in 2012. The company has spent nearly a decade reformulating its chicken portfolio to match consumer preferences as part of what it calls its “commitment to rapid and relentless innovation.”
Last year, Beyond Meat first began expanding its vegan chicken offerings with the launch of Beyond Chicken Tenders in the summer of 2021. Prior to making its retail debut, the product first launched in 400 restaurants last year, including Next Level Burger, Dog Haus, Epic Burger, Toppers Pizza, and Fire Wings.
Like its tenders, the new Beyond Popcorn Chicken and Beyond Chicken Nuggets are made with a base of faba beans and other plant proteins, including pea protein. According to Dariush Ajami, Beyond Meat’s Chief Innovation Officer, these soy-free options can serve as a selling point for some consumers.
“We’re always exploring new plant-based protein sources that deliver the taste and texture of its animal protein equivalent,” Ajami said in a statement. “[We] are proud that by using faba bean protein, we’ve been able to create a portfolio of absolutely delicious plant-based chicken products with no added soy, a key differentiator for our Beyond Chicken products within the category.”
On the foodservice side, Beyond Meat has helped several major chains put vegan chicken on the menu. At KFC, the vegan company worked to develop Beyond Fried Chicken, which the fast-food chain tested to sell-out success but has yet to add to its permanent menu nationwide.
At Panda Express, Beyond Meat helped the chain reimagine its most profitable entrée with Beyond the Original Orange Chicken. Panda Express has tested this item in several markets and is currently offering the vegan chicken entrée at all of its locations nationwide for a limited time.
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This week, Nickelodeon star Kel Mitchell—of iconic teen series Kenan & Kel—appeared in an advertisement to promote the new Beyond the Original Orange Chicken and Panda Express.
Beyond Meat’s vegan steak, two ways
The way meat is traditionally produced is inefficient and clunky, not to mention cruel to animals. Beyond Meat’s CEO Ethan Brown sees plant-based meat replacing this outdated technology the way cell phones replaced landlines.
And Beyond Meat is working on its mission to make animal products obsolete by developing craveable alternatives across a multitude of categories. The brand’s expansion of its plant-based chicken line closely follows the launch of Beyond Steak, its first entry into the vegan steak category in retail. The new product began hitting Kroger and Walmart stores, along with other select retailers, last month.
And, similar to its approach with plant-based chicken, the brand is also working to get vegan steak on the menu through its foodservice partners. Since March 2021, Beyond Meat has been working closely with Taco Bell under its partnership with parent company Yum! Brands (which also owns KFC and Pizza Hut). Here, the Taco Bell culinary team worked to develop a never-before-seen menu item, Beyond Carne Asada, that just hit test locations last month.
Developed as a vegan alternative to Taco Bell’s animal-derived steak, the Beyond Carne Asada is seasoned with the chain’s proprietary spices and is offered as a protein option on any menu item. The best part is that customers will not pay a premium for this plant-based protein, a decision Taco Bell made to make the vegan steak accessible and appealing to all.
The catch? At the moment, the only Taco Bell locations offering Beyond Carne Asada are approximately 50 outposts in and around Dayton, OH.