AUTHOR: TOM TANNER

 

For in-depth, expert insights on the consumer appetite for alternative proteins who better to ask than three SRA members representing the world’s biggest name in fried chicken, one of the UK’s fastest growing burger restaurants and a smaller bird in the chicken market already ruffling a few feathers.

To London’s Excel and Food Matters Live, where SRA Sustainability Consultant Aisling Hayes got the chance to quiz Jo Tivers Head of NPD at KFC, Meg Ellis, Commercial Director of Honest Burgers and Carl Clarke, Founder of Chick’n. All have introduced alternative protein menu items. Aisling’s job was to delve under the bonnet to reveal why now, why the specific product they’ve gone with, consumer uptake and their predictions for the future.

Generation X’s investment in its own health and that of the planet was the motivating force for both Chick’n and Honest to look at developing new products. All three panellists said they wanted to ensure groups could all eat with them, regardless of whether they were meat eaters, vegans or flexitarians. Carl said: “We want people to share the same experience as a group. It’s really important that vegans can have the same eating experience.”

When it came the product itself, the businesses all worked in different ways. For Jo at KFC the number one priority was the patty itself and ensuring the chicken flavour was spot on. Carl and the team at Chick’n worked with an external company and focused on the coating and the flavour. But stressed that for him it was crucial that every ingredient met their sustainability standards. The Honest experience was different. They were approached by Beyond Meat who were eager to find a UK restaurant partner. The fact that it was gluten free and they could bring in Rubies in the Rubble to provide the vegan mayo were the icing on the cake – or is that the ketchup on the burger.

Meg from Honest revealed that the initial one site trial while a success, was primarily popular with vegans. However, months later an estimated 70% of those ordering the Beyond burger are ‘meat eaters’.

For KFC, Jo said its trial across selected restaurants was a runaway success. The Quorn-based burger smashed all expectations selling out in just four days. Its popularity was consistent across the UK. Interestingly, sales data from Chick’n and Honest show that their protein alternatives are creating extra revenue rather than stealing share from meat products.

There was consensus on the future – that the appetite for alternative protein is most definitely a movement and not a trend. All three businesses remain committed to their core offering but will continue to innovate in order that they meet their sustainability priorities and the changing tastes of the great British dining public. That includes further enhancing and improving their alternative protein products.

For KFC customers that means keeping their eyes peeled. Off the back of the successful 2019 trial, Jo Tivers said ‘watch this space’.

 

SRA's Aisling speaking at Food Matters Live