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Panda Express rolls out plant-based version of Orange Chicken nationally for a limited time

The fast-casual Asian chain will use a Beyond Meat chicken alternative and give the dish a premium price.
As a premium dish, the plant-based version costs $1.25 more than real chicken. / Photograph courtesy of Panda Express.

Panda Express has taken the plant-based version of its famed Orange Chicken national this week, at least for a limited time.

Beyond The Original Orange Chicken has rolled out to the chain’s 2,300 units across the U.S. The dish uses a Beyond Meat alternative to chicken, and Panda Express officials say it is the first Asian chain to serve the product.

The dish was first introduced last year in Southern California and New York, and sold out in two weeks in some units, the company said. The chain’s chefs wok-fired more than 1,300 pounds of Beyond orange chicken in the first day alone.

Later, the dish was added to 70 units in ten markets. Starting Tuesday, it was available nationwide.

“Our team has been overjoyed by the undeniable excitement and incredible demand generated when we first introduced Beyond The Original Orange Chicken last summer as an innovative twist on our most iconic dish,” said Andrea Cherng, Panda Express’ chief brand officer, in a statement.

To celebrate, starting Sept. 26, guests who order the plant-based Orange Chicken online using the code “BEYOND” can receive another free bowl featuring an entrée of choice.

Since the meat-imitating Beyond and Impossible Foods products began appearing in grocery stores, and later foodservice,  prior to the pandemic, plant-based options have grown considerably among meat-serving restaurant chains, appearing in various forms on the menu at Burger King, Chipotle, KFC, El Pollo Loco, White Castle, Carl’s Jr., Dunkin’ and more.

McDonald’s, however, ended its test of the McPlant this year, which did not appear to generate much excitement.

One challenge is the cost of plant-based proteins, which typically command higher menu pricing.

At a Panda Express in Los Angeles, for example, the Beyond The Original version of Orange Chicken with white rice was priced at $9.25, while the real-chicken version was $8.

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