For decades, Taco Bell has led the fast-food market in plant-based offerings when most establishments offered few-to-zero vegan options. The international fast-food giant is continuing its reign by diversifying its plant-based portfolio. Taco Bell just announced that it will begin testing its new vegan meat at 95 locations around the Detroit area following a successful trial run in California.
The new “boldly seasoned plant-based protein” will be available as a substitute for no extra charge on the Taco Bell Menu. It will also be featured throughout the company’s Cravetarian menu – the specialty section for plant-based variations of classic Taco Bell menu items. Consumers will be able to order dishes like the Crunchy Taco Supreme, Burrito Supreme, Nachos BellGrander, and Crunchwrap Supreme with the new plant-based protein.
The Detroit launch follows the company’s trial run that took place in Tustin, California last spring. The boldly seasoned plant-based protein became available to all menu items as a substitute for conventional animal-based protein. The vegan meat launched alongside the Cravetarian Taco – the plant-based version of the establishment’s signature Crunchy Taco Supreme – at a California location. The vegetarian taco included lettuce, diced tomatoes, cheese, sour cream, and the new protein.
“Taco Bell has always been a go-to spot for vegans and vegetarians, with plant-based menu items having a prominent place on our menu for years,” a Taco Bell spokesperson told VegNews. “We’ve long been committed to offering food for all, meaning that we strive to ensure more people, no matter their lifestyle, can enjoy the craveable flavors of Taco Bell. That’s why we are constantly innovating, listening to our fans, and analyzing menu test results—in the plant-based space and beyond.”
The fast-food restaurant’s vegan and vegetarian options typically relied on bean or potato substitutes for the central protein across the menu. Until 2019, Taco Bell’s plant-based options were not the highlight of its menu. Beginning when competing chains such as Del Taco started introducing plant-based proteins, Taco Bell shifted its menu to put plant-based alternatives in the spotlight.
To maximize its plant-based status, the company revealed its Cravetararian menu and even partnered with Beyond Meat to develop another plant-based protein. Earlier this year, the company announced that it would be working with Beyond to develop a plant-based protein completely new to the market. So far, the companies have yet to reveal anything else about the new plant-based protein. While consumers wait for the Beyond Meat collaboration, Taco Bell has been developing its own substitutes.
Taco Bell revealed another plant-based menu option at a single location in Irvine, California this year. The “Naked Chalupa with a Crispy Plant-Based Shell” featured the fast-food restaurant’s signature chalupa, but sourced completely from Taco Bell exclusive vegan chicken. The new plant-based chicken arrived after months of development from the Taco Bell test kitchen, using a proprietary pea-protein blend. Alongside the Cravetarian Taco, this test signifies the newly energize dedication to plant-based food from Taco Bell.
“These one-store tests are a quick way for the brand to continue pushing the boundaries of food innovation and get a sense of potential demand for a new menu item,” Senior Manager of Global Nutrition and Sustainability at Taco Bell Missy Schaaphok said at the time. “Similar to our wider market tests, we are always listening to our fans to determine whether to expand the test.”
Accompanying the plant-based push, the fast-food company is also enhancing its sustainable practices. Taco Bell just partnered with recycling firm TerraCycle to launch a program to curb its hot sauce waste program. The company revealed that nearly 8.2 billion single-use hot sauce packets end up in landfills each year, noticing a need to change. The company is asking its customers to help them recycle these signature hot sauce packets without getting rid of the iconic Fire Sauce packets.
“As simple as it sounds, it’s important to remember to first reduce our consumption habits, then reuse products wherever possible, and then recycle,” Schaaphok said. “We’re excited that TerraCycle has provided a way for us to extend the life cycle of our iconic sauce packets as we reevaluate the rest of our packaging suite.”
Taco Bell’s recent addition of plant-based protein joins a long-standing plant-based menu, giving consumers just one more option outside of beans and potatoes. Taco Bell’s extensive plant-based menu can be found here with all the tips for substitution needed for a delicious and healthier fast-food experience.
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