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Taco Bell is testing plant-based proteins

Heidi Chung
Reporter

The hype around plant-based proteins is hot, and Taco Bell is looking to jump on the bandwagon.

“Today, fans can simply remove meat and add beans to any of our menu items without compromising on flavor,” Taco Bell said in a statement to Yahoo Finance. “We’re also testing an in-restaurant vegetarian menu featuring our two plant-based and certified vegan proteins: refried pinto beans and black beans.”

Taco Bell is already one of the more vegetarian-friendly fast-food restaurants, but the company announced earlier this year that it would begin testing out a comprehensive vegetarian menu. According to the chain, the company is keeping a close eye on all food trends and isn’t ruling out a potential partnership with popular alternative-meat producers like Beyond Meat (BYND) and Impossible Foods.

“It is important for us to provide our customers with food that fits their lifestyles, so we keep an eye on trends and the plant-based category is no exception,” Taco Bell told Yahoo Finance.

Earlier, Taco Bell’s president of North American operations, Julie Felss Masino, said that Taco Bell has been keeping Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods on its radar.

“We’ve looked. We’ve met with Beyond, we’ve met with Impossible — our head of innovation knows everybody, and they all know her,” Masino told CNBC in an interview.

The Doritos Locos Tacos. (Photo by Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images for Taco Bell)

It has been difficult to ignore the noise around the alternative-meat market, as companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods continue to draw increased interest from consumers and investors alike.

Other fast food rivals like Del Taco (TACO) and Burger King, a Restaurant Brands (QSR) company, have partnered with Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods to create menu items that would cater to their vegetarian and vegan customers. And they are already reaping rewards.

“Since the April 25 launch of Beyond Tacos, our check and transaction same-store sales trends have improved significantly, which reflects favorably on our outlook, particularly as prior-year compares ease in the second half,” Del Taco CEO John Cappasola said on the first-quarter earnings conference call on May 6. “Our operational efforts are paying off with early guest experience measurement survey results showing a high level of guest satisfaction for Beyond Tacos.”

Moreover, KFC, which is also in the Yum Brands (YUM) family, also told Yahoo Finance on May 30 that it was also exploring the alternative-meat space. “Beyond Meat is an example of someone we’ll eventually talk to in the near future,” KFC CEO Kevin Hochman said in an interview. “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?’”

Beyond Meat has been on fire since its IPO last month. The stock has been on a meteoric rise and jumped a whopping 580% after pricing its offering at $25.

Heidi Chung is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @heidi_chung.

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