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What Sandwich War? KFC Sells Out of Plant-Based ‘Chicken’ in Atlanta

For weeks, a debate over where to get the best chicken sandwich has waged between Popeyes, Chick-fil-A and the chicken-eating public at large. But KFC, another chicken giant with a global reach, is working on its own agenda: a plant-based “chicken” that proved so popular in a sales test that it sold out in a single day.

“It’s confusing, but it’s also delicious,” read a tweet from KFC on Monday announcing the sale of Beyond Fried Chicken, created with the help of the company Beyond Meat, at a single location in Atlanta. In about five hours on Tuesday, a KFC representative said, the restaurant sold as many plant-based boneless wings and nuggets as it would sell of its popular popcorn chicken in an entire week. (A “Kentucky Fried Miracle,” the company declared.)

The representative said the company started “talking with various plant-based suppliers this spring” and “decided to launch this very initial, limited test in Atlanta to gauge interest in plant-based options from KFC customers.”

Is a national rollout imminent? Not quite. The company now plans to evaluate the results of Tuesday’s test, and customer feedback, to determine what comes next, the representative said.

With the test, KFC joined several other major fast-food companies in dabbling in making meat alternatives more mainstream. Most are using either Beyond Meat’s products or those made by Impossible Foods to replace the meat in their most popular products — the Burger King Whopper, a White Castle slider and so on.

Is the idea to turn everyone into a vegetarian? Not exactly. But studies have shown that eating less meat could help both the environment and your health, and that could be making people a little more interested in cutting back.

“Our target customers for this product were flexitarians looking to incorporate plant-based choices into their diets,” the KFC representative said.

Here’s a look at what some of those companies are selling.

Burger King

In April, Burger King began testing its plant-based Impossible Whopper in St. Louis and later in other markets around the United States. This month, it took the sandwich nationwide.

The Impossible Whopper, made by Impossible Foods, is billed as “100% Whopper, 0% beef” and features a flame-grilled patty topped with tomatoes, onions, lettuce, mayonnaise, ketchup and pickles on a sesame seed bun. The sandwich is 630 calories and contains 34 grams of fat and 25 grams of protein, according to nutritional information on Burger King’s website. (A regular Whopper has 660 calories, 40 grams of fat and 28 grams of protein.)

[Read more about how the Impossible Whopper came to be.]


The traditional breakfast sandwich got a makeover when Dunkin’ teamed up with Beyond Meat to serve the Beyond Sausage Breakfast Sandwich in July — but it’s currently available only in Manhattan.

The patty is served on an English muffin with egg and American cheese, and has 10 grams of plant-based protein.

[Read more about the unique foods being offered at fast-food chains, including Arby’s answers to plant-based meat.]

ImageCreditDrew Angerer/Getty ImagesWhite Castle

White Castle began offering the Impossible Slider in April 2018 in 140 locations in New York, New Jersey and Chicago, the company said. By September, the plant-based slider, made by Impossible Foods, had been rolled out nationwide. On the one-year anniversary of its initial offering, White Castle announced that a newly formulated Impossible Slider was available in all its restaurants.

The slider comes with smoked Cheddar cheese and is 240 calories with 11 grams of protein. White Castle does not offer a vegan cheese for the slider, but said it was working to find an option.

Carl’s Jr.

The burger chain Carl’s Jr., based in Tennessee, introduced its own vegan patty at the beginning of the year. It worked with Beyond Meat to create the Beyond Famous Star, a plant-based version of the restaurant’s Famous Star burger, a release said.

The quarter-pound Beyond Burger patty comes with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, dill pickles, special sauce and mayonnaise on a seeded bun. A nutritional breakdown on Carl Jr.’s website said that the sandwich is 710 calories with 40 grams of fat. It has a total of 30 grams of protein, with 20 grams coming from the patty.

Little Caesars

Outside the world of burgers and sandwiches, Little Caesars said in May that it was testing plant-based spicy-sweet sausage on its new Impossible Supreme pizza in Fort Myers, Fla.; Albuquerque; and Yakima, Wash. The sausage, by Impossible Foods, is made from plants, caramelized onions, mushrooms and green peppers. It has no cholesterol, 17 grams of protein and is 270 calories per quarter-pound serving.

The company said it began working with Impossible Foods to create a pizza topping earlier in 2019.


After a product test in Michigan, Qdoba announced in April that it was adding plant-based protein to 730 locations across the country. A news release for the restaurant said it would be the largest Mexican fast-casual chain to serve the protein from Impossible Foods.

The plant-based protein, which Qdoba said tastes and cooks like beef, is seasoned in the restaurant. Patrons can try it in a Qdoba Impossible Bowl or in a Qdoba Impossible Taco.

Not everyone is ready to go meatless

While some chains are embracing the plant-based trend, others are still thinking it through.

Arby’s, whose tag line is “We Have the Meats,” is heading in the opposite direction — last month it cheekily unveiled a carrot made from turkey, which it called the “marrot.” It’s unclear if the product will ever reach the menu.

And what about that fried chicken sandwich war that’s been dominating social media this month? Would we ever see Chick-fil-A and Popeyes duke it out over a vegetarian option?

At least one of those companies says it’s not likely any time soon. But Jackie Jags, a spokeswoman for Chick-fil-A, said its culinary team is always exploring new trends and menu offerings. “We are still in the early phases of evaluating if this is the right fit for our menu,” she said.

Read more about fast foodA Popeyes Chicken Sandwich and a Tactic to Set Off a Twitter RoarAug. 21, 2019Is This the Top-Secret KFC Recipe?Aug. 25, 2016From KFC, a 3-Letter Apology for Its U.K. Chicken CrisisFeb. 23, 2018Arby’s Has an Answer to Plant-Based Meat: A Meat-Based CarrotJuly 16, 2019


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