Perception & Reality are usually quite different.
The Beyond Meat nuggets launched by KFC in the US will not be fried in separate oil. In fact, they will be fried in the same oil like their regular meat-based offerings.
KFC U.S. President Kevin Hochman told CNN it’s because plant-based eaters aren’t really the audience for this initiative. Rather, they’re targeting consumers “that want to eat a little less animal-based protein, but that hasn’t become vegan or vegetarian.”
This strategy of KFC would definitely have been debated internally and based upon a lot of data points. Essentially it is quite clear that plant-based meat is not just a niche segment for vegans/ vegetarians but the mainstream population of a meat-eater, which has an immense potential to generate large volumes.
Of course, that does not mean that there is no possibility of separate equipment & oil for plant-based nuggets in the future. In capitalism, it’s a clear case of demand and supply. If the flexitarian segment does indeed buy the plant-based nuggets in significant numbers regularly, then incurring additional capital expenditure on separate equipment, etc would be seen as justified. This will further get vegan/ vegetarian consumers also into KFC in the US.
Again strategy is such a crazy concept and so much dependent on local variables. If the same concept were to be tried in a country like India, it may not turn out to be successful. Here clear demarcation of cooking of veg and meat-based dishes needs to be maintained. This is because the vegetarian population is significant in size as well as quite clear in their expectations.
Plant-based meat is a classic case of disruption. This disruption is not just related to products, but even disruption in marketing and communications.
Globally the space is still evolving and no one has a clear prescription for a 100 % winning strategy. And that includes not just the startups but even the legacy companies.
Where the legacy companies win in resources and manpower etc, the startups win in nimbleness and quick pivots.
Product innovation, pricing, and communication strategies will be the key attributes for the eventual winners in this space.
It will be quite fascinating to witness the space as it evolves. While time will tell who will be the eventual winners, one thing is certain: the space will reach a massive scale in the next 3-5 years.