McDonald’s plant-based burger fizzles out — even in San Francisco, firm says | Enterprise

The Los Angeles Times

McDonald’s had high hopes for its signature plant-based burger when it rolled out in California and Texas two years ago, but it turns out customers just weren’t lovin’ it.

Joe Erlinger, the president of McDonald’s USA, said during this week’s Wall Street Journal Global Food Forum that the meatless burger had fizzled rather than sizzled. The McPlant, he put it bluntly, “was not successful” in the San Francisco Bay Area or Dallas.

Consumers in the United States aren’t “looking for McPlant or other plant-based proteins from McDonald’s now,” Erlinger said Wednesday. “It’s a trend that we’ll continue to monitor.”

At the heart of McPlant was a patty co-developed with Beyond Meat, which featured vegetarian ingredients like peas, rice and potatoes.

The plant patties cropped up in eight McDonald’s across the country in late 2021, including locations in El Segundo and Manhattan Beach. By January 2022, 600 restaurants across the Bay Area and Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area were slinging the meat-free sandwiches.

At the time, the fast-food giant tempted customers by suggesting they take a road trip to try the McPlant — available only “for a limited time, while supplies last,” the company wrote in a news release.

But an analysis done in March 2022 by the research firm BTIG indicated demand had withered, with consumers underwhelmed by the culinary creation.

Participating restaurants in the Bay Area and Dallas-Fort Worth were selling 20 McPlants per day, less than the 40 to 60 they had expected. Only three to five sandwiches per day were being sold in more rural East Texas, Marketwatch reported at the time.

That July, the company ended the meatless burger’s test run without disclosing plans for a nationwide rollout. The desire for meat alternatives climbed rapidly between 2019 and 2021 in the United States, but lessened in 2022 and declined in 2023, according to the Good Food Institute, a nonprofit that promotes alternatives to animal proteins.

That’s not necessarily the case across the Atlantic, however, where McDonald’s plant-based offerings have apparently found greener pastures. In European markets, you can find the McPlant patty on a sesame bun with lettuce, tomato, ketchup, mustard, vegan sandwich sauce, vegan cheese, pickles and onions.

Erlinger said the company is focusing in the U.S. on chicken options, which are more popular with consumers.

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