McDonald's and vegetarian burgers, the story of a commercial failure

McDonald’s and vegetarian burgers, the story of a commercial failure

This was going to be the future of fast food, a food revolution to advance both the fight against animal suffering and the fight for a more reasoned agriculture. For McDonald’s, the democratization of meatless burgers will not happen. The cold reception of the public surpassed this declared desire for change.

In early 2022, the company launched McPlant in several countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom. A classic burger, but with fake meat to replace the real steak. But here it is: In August, McDonald’s pulled this product from its US restaurants due to its lack of success.

It was not said that it would be easy to convince carnivores to change their eating habits. The figures confirm it: not everything is McPlant’s fault, but a few weeks ago, explains The Guardian, McDonald’s had to lay off 4% of its workforce due to a significant drop in activity. The truth is that vegetarians did not rush en masse to the sign with the yellow M to make it their new canteen…

This setback is a reflection of the difficulties currently facing the company Beyond Meat, which manufactures products that supposedly replace meat advantageously, that is, as satisfying in terms of texture as flavors. The mayonnaise doesn’t go down as well as expected and sales drop drastically. The company, which was worth 10,000 million dollars (the equivalent in euros) in 2019, is now only worth 900 million.

McDonald’s isn’t the only chain ditching plant-based burgers. The test phases have generally ended in failure, and the promise of maps in which carnivores and vegetarians would have many options are fading away. Observers make no secret of it: they had obviously been overly optimistic about the rise of companies like Beyond Meat and the standardization of their products.

fake milk instead of fake meat

What is most surprising, underlines The Guardian, is that, on the other hand, many Americans have left milk out of their daily diet and have replaced it with alternatives based on soy, almonds or oats. This market already represents 15% of the sector, with a third of the American population declaring that they consume these drinks weekly, intended to replace cow’s milk.

But the rise in lactose intolerance clearly has something to do with it, while the switch from beef to plant protein is rarely the result of restriction. Promoting vegetarian foods is a choice, not an obligation. In addition, meat lovers say they have a hard time finding the same pleasure in plant-based products, despite the good work being done by some companies producing substitutes.

The idea of ​​moving the climate issue in the right direction by abandoning – partially or totally – meat consumption is obviously not convincing enough. Lobbyists, fighting in particular against the use of words like “steak” or “meat”, are obviously not in vain. Therefore, McDonald’s should continue to offer a menu made up almost entirely of beef, chicken, and fish. No doubt it would have been necessary to continue the effort over time to allow these products to take root, but the capitalist logic will have (temporarily?) defeated the vegetarian alternatives.


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