Chick-fil-A tests a plant-based sandwich without the chicken

Chick-fil-A tests a plant-based sandwich without the chicken

  • Finance
  • February 12, 2023
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Chick-fil-A jumps on the vegetable train.

The Atlanta chain announced Thursday that it is testing its first plant-based entree — a breaded cauliflower sandwich — in Denver restaurants; Charleston, South Carolina; and the Greensboro, North Carolina area. The test begins on February 13th.

“Cauliflower is the hero of our new sandwich and was inspired by our original Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich,” said Leslie Neslage, director of menu and packaging, in a statement. “Guests told us they wanted to include more vegetables in their diets, and they wanted a plant-based entree that tasted uniquely Chick-fil-A.”

Chick-fil-A said it spent four years developing the sandwich. Chefs tested making patties with mushrooms, chickpeas, and chopped greens, but kept coming back to cauliflower for its bland flavor.

Chick-fil-A culinary developer Stuart Tracy said the cauliflower version “gives a delicious twist on what we’re known for.”

Like Chick-fil-A’s signature chicken sandwich, the cauliflower steak is marinated, breaded, pressure-cooked, and then served on a bun with two slices of cucumber. Milk and eggs are included in the preparation process, the company said.

Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are the two biggest names in the fast-growing plant-based protein space that try to mimic the taste and texture of animal meat, but there are dozens of brands out there. Plant-based options at grocery stores include ground beef, burger patties, meatballs, sausage, chicken nuggets, pot pies, and stir-fries.

The ingredients usually include a plant-based protein, such as soy or pea, and sometimes other beans, wheat, or potatoes.

Perhaps best known for its welcoming staff and easy chicken sandwiches, Chick-fil-A was founded in Georgia in 1967 by S. Truett Cathy, whose son Dan Cathy now serves as chairman. The privately held company has grown to more than 2,800 locations in Canada, Puerto Rico and the United States

Chick-fil-A is a relative latecomer to the plant-based fast food scene. Burger King began selling its Impossible Whopper in 2019 — featuring a plant-based burger from Impossible Foods. Starbucks launched an Impossible sausage sandwich in 2020. McDonald’s introduced its McPlant burger – developed with Beyond Meat – in the UK in 2021. And KFC started selling Beyond Meat Nuggets last year.

Adding a plant-based option hasn’t always worked out well for restaurants. McDonald’s abandoned its veggie McPlant burger last year after weak sales. The addition of a plant-based sausage to Cracker Barrel’s menu last year sparked lively debate among its customers on social media.

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