Just when you thought you'd seen everything when it comes to fast-food chains jumping on the plant-based-meat bandwagon, you find out we're actually at the very beginning of a huge trend. Yesterday, Pizza Hut--the largest pizza chain in the U.S.--announced that it is going to offer a plant-based Incogmeato Italian sausage option on its new Garden Specialty pizza starting today.

There's just one bit of bad news--this surprising new pizza will be available for only one day, and only at one location, in Phoenix, Arizona.

The pizza is a collaboration between Pizza Hut and MorningStar Farms (owned by Kellogg's), which produces a wide variety of vegan, imitation meat products including the Incogmeato Italian sausage.

Wendy Davidson, president of Kellogg Away From Home, had this to say about the collaboration:

Incogmeato is a new-to-the-world brand created to challenge convention on delicious plant-based food. Pizza Hut is the innovation leader in its category and we are excited to partner with them to develop a tasty, first-ever plant-based pizza to satisfy what flexitarians are seeking today.

It's no secret that fast-food companies have been jumping on the plant-based meat bandwagon in a big way. According to Sprout Social, in 2019, the term "meatless" has been mentioned 37 percent more on Twitter than it was in all of 2014. Mentions of "meatless" on Twitter so far in 2019 have surpassed the total number of "meatless" mentions in 2018.

McDonald's has been playing around for some time with the idea of introducing a plant-based vegan burger in the United States. The fast-food giant has already been successfully selling vegan burgers in Europe since 2017, and the company recently announced it is testing a plant-based burger--the P.L.T., with a patty produced by Beyond Meat--in Canada.

Last month, Swiss food and drink manufacturer Nestlé announced that it has developed the world's first fully plant-based "triple play"--a bacon cheeseburger. As Nestlé already supplies its plant-based Incredible Burgers to 1,500 McDonald's restaurants in Germany--where they are sold as the Big Vegan TS--it is entirely possible that this collaboration may eventually make it to these shores. Referring to McDonald's, Morningstar analyst R.J. Hottovy said, "By early next year, you will likely see a plant-based burger test in the U.S."

While Pizza Hut's test of a plant-based Incogmeato Italian sausage pizza is pretty momentous in itself, the company is also testing an innovation that I'm surprised none of the other national pizza chains have yet tried: a round box instead of a square box. But the new box isn't just round--it's "environmentally friendly," which means that it uses less packaging compared with the usual square box and it is industrially compostable.

Whether or not Pizza Hut's Incogmeato Garden Specialty pizza is a success remains to be seen. But given increasing consumer interest in plant-based food options, I'm certain that it's got the company's competitors--including Domino's, Papa John's, Little Caesars, and all the rest--feverishly making plant-based plans of their own. 

Published on: Oct 23, 2019
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