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KFC’s Beyond Fried Chicken is a fake

In January 2022, KFC Corp, a subsidiary of Yum! Brands Inc., rolled out its Beyond Fried Chicken nuggets nationally for a limited time while supplies last. The nuggets are made by Beyond Meat Inc. The products were originally trialed in Atlanta in 2019. They are the first plant-based protein offered at a national chicken restaurant in the U.S.

It's flavorless

On February 2, 2022, I purchased a six-piece box of the Beyond Fried Chicken nuggets from my nearest location and – because KFC does not otherwise sell nuggets – a three-piece box of fried chicken tenders for $14.70.

I arrived at an odd daypart shortly before the dinner rush, so the nuggets were fresh out the fryer while the tenders were decidedly not. Nevertheless, the faux nugget is lacking.

When I picked it up, the breading crumbled in my hand and revealed the innards which did look like a chicken nugget with no breading. With the breading on the nugget, the flavor is not far off from the fried chicken tender. With the breading off, the nugget is nigh flavorless. If you try and tear a nugget apart, it reveals a tough, flaky interior that looks more like a building material than food. In the mouth, its much chewier than a chicken nugget.

It's fake

It’s not chicken. It’s a fried product composed of water, enriched wheat flour and soy protein isolate, spices and other ingredients. Calling anything that is not the meat of Gallus gallus domesticus “chicken” is a lie.

It’s not healthier. Chicken is a health food. Obviously, fried chicken is an indulgence. According to KFC’s nutrition facts, one nugget contains 80 calories, 6 grams of protein, 4.5 grams of fat, 240 milligrams of sodium and 5 grams of carbohydrates. A single tender contains 140 calories, 10g protein, 7g fat and 320mg sodium. It’s hardly a better option from a health perspective and contains less protein than chicken.

It’s not vegan. By KFC’s own admission, its nuggets are cooked in the same oil as the rest of its menu and potentially right alongside the chicken vegans and vegetarians object to eating. KFC will still be a chicken-focused restaurant and the U.S. chicken industry is currently processing more birds than ever, according to WATT Global Media’s research.

It’s not wanted. Despite major restaurant brands buying in, even McDonalds Corp. is trotting out a McPlant, it’s not selling. In January 2022, Restaurant Brands International (RBI) Inc.’s Burger King halved the price of its Impossible Whopper – made by Impossible Foods – in an apparent effort to drum up interest in the product.

A Bloomberg report said the largest Burger King franchisee in the country reports sales slipping to 28 Impossible Whoppers sold per day per store in early 2022 from 32 when the product was released in early 2021. Bloomberg quoted one franchisee who said he’s selling less than 20 Impossible Whoppers per day and he may now be selling those sandwiches at a loss.

Attracting buzz

Launching these plant-based foods at decidedly unhealthy quick serve restaurant chains is all about winning attention, and potentially new customers, while staying relevant.

The press releases and statements made by executives at RBI and Yum all frame these products as exciting, novel and opening doors to new customers. KFC, no stranger to far-out marketing, advertises the nuggets as divine, complete with angel wings, in green packaging and enlists a YouTube star to boot.

A review in the New York Post said the plant-based alternative proteins market is now at $1.4 billion in the U.S. and could double in the next five years. By comparison, the U.S. operations of Yum’s KFC Division brought in about $4.2 billion in 2020, according to its annual filing.

Watch closely

While these plant-based foods are no healthier than what they imitate, for the true believers they represent another step toward a future with no animal agriculture. Marketers of the alternative proteins are savvy. They play on consumers' fears about the environment by selling their product as a solution to the supposed, and verifiably false, damage what they call factory farming does to the environment. Placing the nuggets in a green box is no mistake.

More consumers say they are flexitarian, or vegetarian/vegan curious, and I believe most everyone is willing to try anything once. Major integrators like Purdue Farms and Tyson Foods are picking up on this trend and hoping to cash in on the green halo consumers currently assign to alternative protein products.

Real meat is still king in the U.S. and around the world. Alternative proteins will need generations of successes to usurp the throne. Nevertheless, the U.S. poultry industry must continue to closely monitor how consumers perceive and purchase alternative meats.

Par : Austin Alonzo (03/02/2022)

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Photo : Austin Alonzo (tirée de l'article original)

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