Plant-based near-chicken on KFC’s Canadian menu to stay

Maple Leaf's Lightlife arm to make 'Plant-Based KFC' sandwich

Updated, Aug. 18: Consumers’ response to a single-day test of plant-based near-chicken menu items in Mississauga last year has led KFC Canada to add the product, full time, to its menu nationwide.

The Canadian arm of the Yum Brands-owned chicken chain announced Wednesday its ‘Plant-Based KFC’ sandwiches will be available permanently at its stores across Canada starting Monday (Aug. 10).

The near-chicken sandwich will continue to be made by Lightlife, a brand of Greenleaf Foods, a U.S. subsidiary of Toronto-based Maple Leaf Foods.

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Plant-Based KFC Popcorn, a bite-sized near-chicken product test-marketed in Mississauga at the same time as the sandwich last November, will only be “available for a limited time while quantities last.”

As for the plants going into the new product, the list of ingredients posted on KFC Canada’s website for the Plant-Based KFC sandwich includes wheat flour, soy protein, tapioca starch, corn flour, citrus fibre, dried garlic, faba bean protein isolate, wheat gluten, soy flour, modified corn starch, rice flour and dried onions, among others.

Well within the top 10 restaurant chains in Canada by number of outlets, KFC includes about 640 Canadian stores out of 24,390 worldwide.

“When we tested Plant-Based KFC by Lightlife late last year, we sold over a month’s worth of sandwiches in six hours,” KFC Canada’s chief marketing officer Samantha Redman said Wednesday in a release.

Redman described the sandwich as “a modern take” on the company’s chicken, “whether you enjoy a vegetarian or flexitarian lifestyle — or you’re one of our loyal fans looking for something new.”

Lightlife’s plant protein near-meats are no stranger to the Canadian quick-service dining market.

Last month it launched a “reinvented” Lightlife Burger, made with pea protein, coconut oil and garlic powder, for the Harvey’s chain, where it had introduced a plant-based burger the previous September.

Greenleaf, announcing the Harvey’s burger relaunch July 20, said its research has shown “consumers’ needs went unmet 98 per cent of the time when looking for plant-based protein with simple, recognizable ingredients,” leading the company to offer “the cleanest ingredient labels in the plant-based meat category.”

Also, Greenleaf said last month, “unlike some of its competitors, the Lightlife Plant-Based Burger is made from pea protein — not soy — and does not contain any artificial flavours, GMOs or gluten.”

Elsewhere in Canada, Lightlife’s plant-based burgers appear on menus at dining chains including Kelseys and Dave + Busters.

Vegetarian options also aren’t new to the KFC Canada menu, which has had such items since 2009, including a vegetarian sandwich with a soy- and wheat-protein-based patty.

KFC is also still testing plant-based “chicken” in other markets, including “Beyond Fried Chicken” items, made by Los Angeles-based Beyond Meat, in the U.S.

Those tests included a one-day run in Atlanta last summer and further tests in Nashville and Charlotte in February. It launched a new test run last month at over 50 California stores in and around Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego.

KFC Canada, in its release Wednesday, emphasized the chain’s bona fide chicken is “not going anywhere. It is Kentucky Fried Chicken after all.” — Glacier FarmMedia Network

UPDATE, Aug. 18, 2020: A previous version of this article made note of the ingredients for Lightlife’s plant-based “Smart Tenders” near-chicken product, as the Plant-Based KFC sandwich’s ingredient list was not yet publicly available.

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