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McDonald’s reiterates beef support during Beyond Meat test-drive

Chain test-marketing plant-based burger in southwestern Ontario

The world’s biggest burger chain has aimed to reassure Canadian beef producers that its trial run of a plant-based burger doesn’t mark a retreat from the company’s primary protein.

McDonald’s CEO John Betts, in a statement issued Friday directly to “our valued partners in the beef industry,” said he wants beef producers “to hear from me directly that our commitment to beef remains unwavering.”

Betts’ statement was distributed Friday as the quick-service chain announced it would test a new sandwich, the “P.L.T.,” exclusively at 28 outlets in southwestern Ontario for a 12-week trial period starting Monday (Sept. 30).

The P.L.T., short for “Plant. Lettuce. Tomato,” features a plant-based patty developed for the chain by Los Angeles-based meat-substitute processor Beyond Meat, which has been making similar inroads at other major quick-service and casual dining chains in North America.

In a separate statement, Jeff Fitzpatrick-Stilwell, McDonald’s senior manager for sustainability in North America, emphasized the P.L.T. test is a trial only and not a full rollout of a new nationwide menu item.

During the test run, he said, the marketing of the sandwich at those outlets will be at point-of-purchase only, focused only on customer choice, and will not include or imply any comparison with beef.

In his statement Friday, Betts said the chain’s recent focus on “Classics Remastered” and its “industry-leading work” on beef sustainability shows the groundwork the chain has done “to reignite passion around quality beef in Canada.” The chain’s Canadian arm has long made its exclusive use of Canadian beef well known in its promotions.

The “Classics Remastered” program was launched in August as a way for the Canadian chain to “enhanc(e) its burger experience through a number of small changes to how burgers are cooked and served.”

Among those changes are cooking beef patties in smaller batches for “hotter and juicier beef,” as well as changes to storage for “fresher and crisper produce,” and new bun recipes.

The chain, Betts said Friday, “has aggressive growth targets over the next few years, so when I talk about doubling down on beef, it’s efforts like these that will help accelerate our beef sales for years to come.”

Without going into specifics, Betts noted the chain’s customers can also expect “some exciting beef activations before the end of the year.”

As for the P.L.T., he said, “we have a responsibility to respond to industry demands and deliver on what consumers are asking for” and reiterated that the test is a way of “gaining insight to help our global markets learn about guest expectations and preferences, while understanding the impact to our restaurant operations.”

More importantly, he said, the P.L.T. test “creates increased diversity in our menu,” which is expected to “help create broader appeal and help drive sales overall, including beef.”

As another example, Betts pointed to ” the relentless focus we’ve put against coffee” over the past decade, an area in which “we built up demand and we haven’t slowed down. And, in the last few years, we’ve been ramping up to put that same focus on beef – and we have no plans to let up.”

Beef, he said, “remains a critical driver for our business and an area that we plan to continue to strengthen our support for.”

Fast food chains’ commitment to Canadian beef again became a sore spot recently for some beef producers in Saskatchewan after burger chain A+W launched a TV commercial featuring fans of the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders sampling that company’s Beyond Meat burger outside Mosaic Stadium in Regina.

The Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association made its views on the ad spot known to the football club, which replied in a statement that A+W, as a corporate partner of the club, is able to use the team’s trademarks in its commercial but the club was not involved in the ad campaign.

The club told the SSGA the ad “does not represent any reduction of support” by the Riders for the beef sector or any ag sector in the province. A+W, the Riders said, has assured the club that the campaign’s intent “is not to stop people eating beef or to switch away from beef.” — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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