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Happy McVeganuary: McDonald’s to offer first fully vegan meal in UK in Q1 2020

December 11, 2019

In the UK, the practice of Veganuary — being vegan for the month of January — is starting to catch the attention of the fast-food giants.

This Tuesday, McDonald’s said it will be putting out its first fully vegan meal to coincide with the start of Veganuary.

Its so-called “Veggie Dippers” will go on sale on January 2 in both adult meal and Happy Meal sizes. What are they made of? According to a report from the UK’s Press Association, ingredients include pepper, rice, sundried tomato pesto and split peas surrounded by breadcrumbs; the dippers have been accredited by The Vegan Society.

The full meal will come with fries, which are already vegan, and a soft drink. Thomas O’Neill, head of food marketing at McDonald’s UK & Ireland, said in a press release: “In the last 12 months we’ve seen an 80% uplift in customers ordering vegetarian options at McDonald’s, so it is time for the brand famous for the dippable McNugget to launch a dippable option for our vegetarian, vegan and flexitarian customers.

“The Veggie Dippers are a delicious addition to our menu and we’re looking forward to seeing what customers make of our first vegan Extra Value Meal and Happy Meal in the new year.”

There is still no sign of the fabled McVegan Burger, however, which has been doing the rounds up in the Nordic region, thanks initially to a partnership with the plant-based protein brand Anamma, which is produced by Orkla Foods Sverige.

Rebel Chicken King

On the plant-based burger front, McDonald’s has been slower than its traditional jousting partner Burger King when it comes to introducing plant-based protein onto the menu. While McDonald’s has selected Nestle and its “Incredible Burger” for the meatless burgers it offers in Germany and Beyond Meat’s patties for a test in Canada, Burger King has been quicker to get its Impossible Whooper to market. Adding to that, Burger King launched its Rebel Whopper in Europe last month across outlets in 25 countries. Its patty comes from The Vegetarian Butcher, a Netherlands-based manufacturer of faux-meat products bought by Unilever at the end of 2018. (Impossible’s presence in Europe is still, well, impossible due to regulatory restrictions on GMOs.)

In the nugget space, McDonald’s is also still a few steps slower than Burger King, which has been trialing its Rebel Chicken King in Sweden already — and even slower in relation to KFC, which has been offering Beyond Chicken for months.

Even the British fast food chain Gregg’s has made McDonald’s look slow footed, with the launch of its vegan sausage roll helping to spur sales across the country.

Elsewhere, another slow-mover over in the US, Taco Bell, just announced it’s introducing its first plant-based options, but also outside of the US. The Mexican inspired fast food joint has launched the “Oatrageous Taco” in Finland and Spain with plans to expand elsewhere in Europe in 2020. The faux-meat in the taco is made from pulled oats and legumes. It’s also launched a less innovative vegetarian version of the Crunchwrap in Cyprus using halloumi cheese as the protein substitute, according to Nation’s Restaurant News.

The moves come in the same week that food innovation startup Motif FoodWorks announced a partnership with the University of Queensland to research improving the texture of plant-based foods. Motif formulates food products from microbes engineered by its parent company Ginkgo Bioworks. Read more here.

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