KFC introduces plant-based 'fried chicken'

Ding Yining
Chicken-flavored soybean, pea and wheat-based protein is made available to order online to be picked up at restaurants in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen later this month.
Ding Yining
KFC introduces plant-based 'fried chicken'

KFC's plant-based "fried chicken" is made from soybean, pea and wheat-based protein with crushed water chestnuts to give it a crunchy texture.

KFC is to launch plant-based “fried chicken” in China with products available to order online for pick-up at three restaurants in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen later this month.

At a press briefing on Monday, it said it had sourced a high-quality raw material bringing together soybean, pea and wheat-based protein with crushed water chestnuts to give it a crunchy texture.

The first batch of 2,400 servings sold out on Monday and two more batches will be available for order on Tuesday and Wednesday.

KFC said that, based on customer feedback, it will explore other plant-based offerings.

Five pieces of the chicken-flavored protein will cost 1.99 yuan (28 US cents) as the company tests the water before a large-scale launch.

Some consumer feel bewildered at the mere thought of lab-made fried chicken. "It's really hard to imagine how fried soybean protein would taste," said Shanghai financial analyst Lillian Li. 

Others doubt whether this would attract vegetarian, as the majority of consumers who visit KFC are meat lovers who are not likely to favor vegetable protein to avoid high cholesterol, wrote one Weibo user Tracy Jia. 

Barclays estimated last year that the market for plant-based or lab-made meat substitutes could climb to US$140 billion in the next 10 years as emerging companies strive to capture 10 percent of the US$1.4 trillion meat market.

Whole Perfect Food, Zhenmeat, Starfield, Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are some of the domestic and overseas manufacturers and retailers developing artificial meat products and selling plant protein-based “meat.”

KFC expanded the supply of its plant-based “fried chicken” at 65 restaurants in the US — in Nashville, Tennessee, and Charlotte, North Carolina — in February after a successful trial in Atlanta in August last year.

Daisy Li, associate director of Mintel China food and beverage industry, expected consumers to turn to safe and clean plant protein amid the coronavirus pandemic.

She suggested plant-based protein makers emphasize nutritional benefits to attract potential consumers.

Mintel pointed out in its latest food and drink trends report that trust in compound or lab-made food will increase as consumer would think they outperformed natural food as a more healthy and sustainable source of protein. 

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