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Plant-based foods outlook: Will Domino's Pizza join the craze?

Brian Sozzi
Editor-at-Large

Domino’s Pizza (DPZ) CEO Richard Allison says he eats fish three to four times a week for dinner. But he totally gets the movement to plant-based foods in the restaurant industry, and is open to bringing some of the products onto Domino’s menu.

It just has to make sense from consumer and business standpoints.

“We are testing those things [plant-based foods] today. If they prove to have consumer appeal and are items we could offer at a good value to the customers and be profitable for the franchisees, and if there is good stable supply for those products, you may see some of them on the Domino’s menu,” Allison tells Yahoo Finance, adding that Domino’s has conducted its tests internally rather than in restaurants as others often do.

Adds Allison, “I have personally tried many of the plant-based proteins, and I think the industry is doing a pretty good job today particularly around things that come in the form of crumbles — so think about sausage or beef that you would put on a pizza. Getting the flavor profile and mouthfeel right they are coming along pretty well. When you take something like pepperoni, it’s still tougher.”

Without question, 2019 will go down as the year plant-based meat reached the mainstream in large part by new products popping up in fast-food restaurants. Domino’s rival Pizza Hut tested an Italian sausage pizza in late October at one restaurant in Arizona using fake meat from Kellogg’s Morningstar Farms brand. Burger King found big-time success selling Whoppers using plant-based meat from Impossible Foods. And Dunkin’ Brands (DNKN) launched a nationwide breakfast sandwich using sausage from Beyond Meat (BYND).

A sign advertising the soy based Impossible Whopper is seen outside a Burger King in New York, U.S., August 8, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

By and large, the higher priced plant-based menu items helped to boost customer traffic and same-store sales for many in the industry.

Fake meat here to stay?

The fast-food industry would be wise to move quickly with plant-based meat adoption.

Researchers at Wells Fargo point to population growth that will stretch food resources over the long-term. The United Nations projects that by 2050, the world’s population will have surged to 9.8 billion people, up 27% from present levels. That strong population growth is expected to send global per capita meat consumption increasing by 25%. In turn, the planet’s annual meat production will likely have to increase by 75%, or 200 million tons, according to Wells Fargo.

The spike in population and meat consumption will place severe stress on livestock counts globally. Plant-based foods will help alleviate that strain.

“I go to see my doctor as you should do at my age, and all he talks about is plant-based foods. I really think it’s a trend — we are really happy with what has happened with Beyond Meat at Dunkin,” Dunkin’ Brands chairman Nigel Travis told Yahoo Finance.

Meanwhile, consumer concerns on the intake of too much meat remain on the rise. And so is the use of technology to develop better-tasting plant-based food alternatives.

“We are definitely looking at this [plant-based foods]. We definitely see that Burger King in particular has been pretty successful with the Impossible Whopper and there is a growing group of folks that value plant-based products. If it’s something we think we can sell profitably in 6,000 plus U.S. stores we will do it,” Allison notes.

Allison says Domino’s — usually patient with releasing new menu items — will have new products coming to market in 2020. A “couple dozen” items are in test right now, he says.

Perhaps one of them will have faux sausage crumbles for an extra few bucks.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-anchor of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @BrianSozzi

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