KFC (YUM) is thinking about going meatless — sort of.
The fast food chain—famous for its Kentucky fried chicken, creamy mashed potato bowls and bite-sized crispy nuggets — is now “exploring” alternative protein. This comes shortly after Burger King (QSR) saw a big traffic boost by introducing the Impossible Burger in some of its stores.
Kevin Hochman, KFC’s U.S. president, told Yahoo Finance recently that he’s been meeting with “big makers” in the space. “Beyond Meat (BYND) is an example of someone we’ll eventually talk to in the near future,” he added.
KFC makes up the biggest chunk of Yum’s revenue, recently reporting same-store sales growth of 5% — and a potential partnership with Beyond Meat may add to that sizzle.
Meawhile, the plant-based protein company continues to rally in its first month of trading. On Thursday, Beyond Meat’s stock spiked to a new all-time intraday high of $105 per share, before paring those gains. Still, the stock is up by more than 300% from its $25 IPO price.
The buzz surrounding Beyond Meat is indicative of increasing consumer demand when it comes to healthier food options.
Hochman added that the trend falls in line with KFC’s goal of providing quality food, at an affordable price.
“We look at all of the emerging food trends and [ask], ‘What are the things that are going to be broadly appealing for our core guests?’” he said.
“How do we make them more accessible to the public if they are broadly appealing and how do we get them at an amazing price point that our customers can afford,” Hochman added.
‘Our customers want real food’
KFC’s push to attract millennials extends beyond its ‘exploration’ of vegan menu options.
Food innovation, like the launch of its Pickle Fried Chicken and Kentucky Fried Chicken & Waffles, along with a profitable partnership with delivery giant GrubHub have been key to pull in more customers and burnish KFC’s brand.
“Our customers want real food. They don’t want overly processed foods — they want things that are made the correct way with as little adulteration as possible,” Hochman said.
“We get all of our chickens from U.S. farms...they get delivered fresh twice a week to our restaurants. We have trained cooks that actually bread, fry the chicken,” the executive said—adding that it takes nearly half an hour for KFC to fry its poultry.
KFC’s dedication to sustainability also includes a recent completion of a goal to remove antibiotics important to human medicine from the brand’s supply chain. It also unveiled a new commitment to ensure that all plastic-based, consumer-facing packaging across its global system will be recoverable or reusable by 2025.
“I would say the sky’s the limit for fried chicken right now — and because we do things the right way, we have a lot of tailwind [at] our backs,” Hochman added.
Alexandra Canal is a Producer at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @alliecanal8193