As a disastrous year of human history draws to a close, McDonald’s has announced a new plan to draw customers back in once again.
The plan is called Accelerating the Arches, and incorporates many new ideas for how the brand can market and deliver better and faster food to consumers over the next year. You can read the plan here, but most of it is fluff to impress investors.
The plan only became exciting after the announcement last month of the McPlant. This appetising new option is McDonald’s newly developed plant-based burger that it plans on rolling out in the near future.
McDonald’s Partnership with Beyond Meat
As you may know, Impossible and Beyond Meat are two industry leaders in the simulated meat space.
They have held a firm grip on plant-based meats by pioneering market research in the space, and selling us the dream on plant-based meat that sizzles on the grill and bleeds like an animal.
The theory is all there. Cows spend all day turning plants and grass into meat. So surely we can beat cows at their own game right?
Well, McDonald’s sure thinks so, and joined Beyond Meats to make it happen in their Canadian restaurants.
Together, they created the PLT, a burger that featured a plant-based patty, lettuce, and tomato. The experience was valuable for McDonald’s because it provided insight into how their US customers may respond to the introduction of a plant burger. It was also valuable to Beyond Meat, because I’m sure a partnership with McDonald’s would be game-changing for them.
So imagine how shocking it must have been when last month, McDonald’s International President Ian Borden described the new McPlant as “by McDonalds, for McDonalds.”
McDonald’s was trying to make it public knowledge that McDonald’s were in the plant-space for themselves.
Beyond was quick to tell CNBC that the company actually co-created the McPlant with McDonald’s, with the truth probably being that Beyond did all the inventing, and McDonald’s did all the betraying.
How Beyond Meat fell into this situation makes a lot of sense. No-one in the world sells more burgers than McDonald’s, so the dream of partnering with the company must have been too good to resist for the meatless meat pioneer.
They would have worked hard to develop something unique and delicious that McDonald’s customers could eat without spitting out and ordering a cheeseburger.
Now McDonald’s has what they came for, and they’re naming the burger after themselves.
“By McDonald’s, for McDonald’s.”
What makes things worse for Beyond Meat is that according to Market Watch, Beyond Meat stock fell 25% after the McDonald’s announcement.
After the announcement, McDonald’s was now being seen as a competitor for Beyond Meat, and the market responded predictably.
Investors are clearly worried that McDonald’s new “self developed” burger may run Beyond out of business.
The worst part of this sloppy announcement is that it’s far too late to be revolutionary.
I noticed a long time ago that my local Burger King offers a plant-meat burger, not to mention White Castle and their impossible slider.
McDonald’s is going to have to offer an insanely delicious burger to compete with the other fast food giants that have been in the plant business for a long time.
It feels just like McDonald’s has only just announced a chicken sandwich in response to the smash-hit Popeyes chicken sandwich that was popular a year ago.
Too little, too late.
I’m reminded of a decade ago when McDonald’s suddenly started rolling out salads and lettuce-heavy burgers in response to the changing public perception of healthy living.
This new offering is a very late evolution of the salad craze from years ago. Except this time, it’s on the back of the little guy who did all the work.
McDonalds claims that McPlant burgers will also be joined by “chicken” nuggets. All of these synthetic meats will need to be stored and transported in unique packaging at potentially different temperatures and under different conditions to real meat.
They can’t be stored with real meat for fear of cross-contamination, so the logistics are going to be insane.
Ordinarily, a partner would be responsible for producing and helping transport the products, but McDonald’s burned that bridge. So it’ll be the company itself that will have to produce everything, manage storage and transportation, and ensure correct ordering and delivery between all corporate and franchisee restaurants.
McDonald’s may be working with un-named partners in an effort to pull this all off, but if so, we don’t know who they are yet.
The war has only just begun
After many years of working and tinkering, Beyond and Impossible Meat have created science fiction; a convincing meat patty made out of plant.
Can McDonald’s really step in and pull a true plant-based burger out of the bag with the snap of a finger?
Despite what they claim, it’s obvious that they had help developing the burger from Beyond. The fact that they didn’t credit Beyond and allowed their former partner’s stock to plummet after their announcement is the reason I’ve spent so much time harping on this issue.
Do they expect us to believe that this burger came out of thin air?
Meanwhile, Beyond is developing and launching two rival burgers at the exact same time, burgers that will likely be licensed and sold by restaurants that are in competition with McDonald’s.
So I guess it’s game on. May the juiciest, bloodiest, most delicious fake meat win.