McDonald’s and vegetarian burgers, the story of a commercial failure

This was to be the future of fast food, a food revolution to advance both the fight against animal suffering and the fight for more reasoned agriculture. For McDonald’s, the democratization of meatless hamburgers will not take place. The chilly reception from the public got the better of this stated desire for change.

At the beginning of 2022, the company launched the McPlant in several countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom. A classic burger, but with fake meat to replace the real steak. But here it is: In August, McDonald’s pulled this product from its American restaurants due to its lack of success.

It was not said that convincing meat eaters to change their eating habits would be easy. The figures confirm it: it’s not all McPlant’s fault, but a few weeks ago, explains The Guardian, McDonald’s had to lay off 4% of its staff due to a significant drop in activity. What is certain is that vegetarians did not rush en masse to the sign with the yellow M to make it their new canteen…

This setback is a reflection of the difficulties currently encountered by the Beyond Meat company, which manufactures products that are supposed to replace meat advantageously, that is to say as satisfying in terms of texture as in terms of flavors. The mayonnaise does not take as well as expected, and sales drop dramatically. The company, which was worth 10 billion dollars (the equivalent in euros) in 2019, is now only worth 900 million.

McDonald’s isn’t the only chain to abandon plant-based burgers. The trial phases have generally ended in failure, and the promises of maps in which carnivores and vegetarians would be spoiled for choice are going up in smoke. Observers do not hide it: they had obviously been far too optimistic about the emergence of companies like Beyond Meat and the standardization of their products.

Fake milk instead of fake meat

What is most surprising, underlines The Guardian, is that on the other hand, many Americans have left milk out of their daily diet and replaced it with alternatives based on soy, almond or oats. This market now represents 15% of the sector, with a third of the American population declaring that they consume these drinks every week, intended to replace cow’s milk.

But the increase in lactose intolerance clearly has something to do with it, while the switch from beef to vegetable protein is rarely the result of a constraint. Promoting vegetarian foods is a choice, not an obligation. In addition, meat lovers say they really struggle to find the same pleasure in vegetable products, despite the good work done by some companies producing substitutes.

The idea of ​​advancing the climate issue in the right direction by abandoning – partially or totally – the consumption of meat is obviously not convincing enough. The lobbies, which fight in particular against the use of words like “steak” or “meat”, are obviously not for nothing. McDonald’s should therefore continue to offer a menu composed almost entirely of beef, chicken and fish. It would no doubt have been necessary to continue the effort over time to let these products take hold, but capitalist logic will have (temporarily?) got the better of the vegetarian alternatives.

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