Plant-based meat alternatives is a trend which elevates itself above ‘fad’ status through its presentation as an environmentally friendly option, rather than a simple good-for-you vegetarian option. Originally the domain of companies with clickbait names like Beyond Meat or Impossible Burger, plant-based meat alternatives are working their way into the mainstream.

The key to the success of plant-based alternatives is the concept of ‘familiar swaps’ – providing an option so similar that the transition from meat to meat-free is virtually seamless. This is also becoming increasingly popular in the foodservice and takeaway sector. Meat-free pioneers such as Quorn, Alpro and Strong Roots continue to innovate in the foodservice sector by offering meat alternatives developed in such a way as to be indistinguishable from beef or chicken. KFC is even in the process of developing a vegetarian fried chicken, and while little is known at this stage it will incorporate the iconic eleven herbs and spices.

The UK has been a leader in vegetarian and vegan options. McDonald’s and KFC both promote vegetarian burger options on their menus, while Pizza Hut originally ran a trial of vegan cheese in five locations that proved so popular it was rolled out nationwide.

In the US options are slightly more limited, but there is a definite shift towards plant-based. White Castle customers can swap out their patties for an Impossible Burger patty, a move which has proven popular. “The fact that we are the first fast-food chain to offer the Impossible Burger to our loyal customers epitomises our history of being on the ‘bleeding edge’ of a rapidly evolving industry,” said White Castle CEO Lisa Ingram.

Australian-based Lord of the Fries, which touts itself as “ethical fast-food” and has two outlets in Auckland, has menu options such as ‘Chick’n’, ‘Parma’ and ‘Phish’, all meat-free alternatives but without explicitly saying so. Burger Fuel, Hell Pizza and Mad Mex are among a wide range of local takeaway outfits that offer meat-free and meat-alternative options to customers.