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KFC will start testing Beyond Meat chicken

The quick-service chain will offer plant-based Beyond Fried Chicken at a single restaurant in suburban Atlanta starting this week.
Photograph courtesy of KFC

Kentucky Fried Chicken on Monday said it plans to start testing Beyond Meat chicken nuggets and boneless wings this week for a limited time, making it the first fast-food chicken chain to join the plant-based craze.

KFC said it will test the Beyond Fried Chicken at a single restaurant near SunTrust Park in suburban Atlanta beginning Tuesday. The company is testing the product as it evaluates a potential national rollout.

The faux chicken will be available in six- or 12-piece nuggets and six- or 12-piece wings with one of three sauce options: Nashville Hot, Buffalo or Honey BBQ.

“Our customers will find it difficult to tell it’s plant-based,” Kevin Hochman, president of KFC U.S., said in a statement.

The move comes as fast-food chains have scrambled to offer plant-based “meat” menu items using products made by Beyond Meat or rival Impossible Foods.

For the most part, the companies have largely limited their selections to products mimicking existing processed meat, such as ground beef or sausage. Burger King recently launched its Impossible Whopper nationwide, and Del Taco introduced its Beyond Taco this spring. Both generated strong sales from consumers curious about the products.

KFC’s test will determine whether this trend can extend to a different protein, fried chicken.

Beyond Meat has seen its stock price soar since its June IPO, largely on the basis of its deals with restaurant chains.

The food maker actually offered a chicken product before it sold ground beef, but it was deemed a “failure.”

KFC, however, believes the new product is strong enough to work inside its restaurants. “I think we’ve all heard ‘It tastes like chicken,’” Hochman said. “Our customers are going to be amazed and say, ‘It tastes like Kentucky Fried Chicken.’”

Ethan Brown, Beyond Meat’s founder, said the deal with KFC “speaks to our collective ability to meet the consumer where they are.”

For KFC, the deal continues a string of innovative products designed to get attention, such as its Cheetos Chicken Sandwich. Its marketing ability has helped the Louisville, Ky.-based chain generate 21 straight quarters of at least flat same-store sales in its home U.S. market, where it operates 4,000 locations.

On Tuesday, the company will give away samples of its Beyond Meat chicken at the restaurant on Cobb Parkway in Smyrna, Ga., to customers who order other items from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

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