Taco Bell Is Finally Ready to Embrace Plant-Based Meat

The brand's CEO reportedly said he recently met with both Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods.

New leadership often means new ideas—or, in this case, embracing very current ideas. In a recent interview, Taco Bell's CEO appeared set to complete a year-long pivot, reversing course on the company's vegetarian plans not only by embracing plant-based meat, but by considering items from two of the biggest plant-based meat makers in the industry: Beyond Meat or Impossible Foods.

In January of last year, Taco Bell—seeing the excitement surrounding new plant-based meat options from both its competitors like Del Taco and other big names like Burger King—instead decided to double-down on its existing strategy: The chain played up that it is "the only American Vegetarian Association-certified" fast food brand, thanks primarily to its range of bean-based items, and promised to create a dedicated vegetarian menu to make these food choices clearer.

A Taco Bell restaurant location
J. Michael Jones/Getty Images

That menu arrived in September, but the writing may have already on the wall: By December, Taco Bell had acquiesced to the plant-based buzz releasing an "Oatrageous Taco" with meat-free ground beef in Europe and previewed this fake meat option for journalists in the United States. And now, CEO Mark King—who, probably not coincidentally, joined Taco Bell in August—has reportedly admitted he's talking to the trendiest names in the plant-based game.

"We definitely see that plant-based protein has a place on the menu," King said, according to Bloomberg. The business site says King has met with both Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods in recent months, and Taco Bell is currently mulling its next step. King was even reportedly chowing down on Beyond Meat samples as recently as last week. "I tried all the food which was really exciting and way beyond my expectation," he was quoted as saying.

Worth noting is that Taco Bell is part of Yum! Brands—which also operates the KFC, Pizza Hut, and WingStreet chains. And as you may recall, KFC has recently been ramping up a partnership with Beyond Meat. The pair first offered Beyond Fried Chicken at a single KFC last August before reformulating the menu item and rolling it out at 70 additional locations last month. Does this mean Beyond Meat has the leg up on the competition when it comes to partnering with Taco Bell? Maybe not. But wouldn't it be weird to go to a combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell and have one serving Beyond Meat and the other serving Impossible Foods? Awkward!

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