- Taco Bell will test meatless carne asada made with Beyond Meat at dozens of its restaurants in Dayton, Ohio.
- It took longer than expected to create a carne asada alternative that satisfied Taco Bell, Bloomberg reported in December.
- The steak substitute uses vital wheat gluten and faba bean protein to try to replicate the texture and taste of carne asada.
Taco Bell will test meatless carne asada made with Beyond Meat at dozens of its restaurants in Dayton, Ohio, starting next month.
It's the latest effort from the Mexican-inspired chain to appeal to customers who don't want to eat meat. Taco Bell has had a passionate vegetarian and vegan fan base for decades, thanks to its meat-free protein options such as black beans and potatoes. But the Yum Brands chain has been slower to jump on the trend of plant-based meats.
In early 2021, Yum signed a deal with Beyond to create exclusive menu items for its fast-food chains, which also include Pizza Hut and KFC. Around that time, Taco Bell promised to test a menu item made with Beyond, but it took longer than expected to create a carne asada alternative that satisfied Taco Bell, Bloomberg reported in December. Missy Schaaphok, Taco Bell's director of global nutrition and sustainability, said Beyond Carne Asada has been in the works for a little under two years.
Get Philly local news, weather forecasts, sports and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Philadelphia newsletters.
In the meantime, Taco Bell has tested three proprietary meat alternatives made separate from the Beyond partnership.
Starting Oct. 13, participating Taco Bell locations will sell the steak substitute for a limited time at the same price as its existing carne asada. The chain said it wants to make plant-based products more affordable for consumers. Price parity with meat is a long-term goal for Beyond, which believes cheaper meat substitutes will encourage more consumers to change their diets.
Taco Bell plans to feature Beyond Carne Asada in its quesadilla, but customers can swap in the meat alternative for other orders as well. The steak substitute uses vital wheat gluten and faba bean protein to try to replicate the texture and taste of traditional carne asada. The test is meant to help Taco Bell measure the demand for Beyond Carne Asada.
The announcement comes at an awkward time for Beyond. The company on Tuesday suspended its operating chief, Doug Ramsey, after he was was arrested in Arkansas for allegedly biting another man's nose and punching him. Beyond hired Ramsey in December with the hopes of using his three decades of experience with Tyson Foods to help the company with large-scale product launches.
Ramsey's arrest is the latest bad headline for Beyond. Wall Street has been losing its optimism for Beyond and the broader plant-based meat industry. Grocery and restaurant sales have disappointed, and investors aren't as enthusiastic about once-buzzy partnerships with the likes of McDonald's, Yum and PepsiCo. In August, the company cut its revenue outlook for 2022 and announced layoffs.
Shares of Beyond have lost about three-quarters of their value this year, dragging its market value down to $1.04 billion. When shares hit an all-time high in 2019, the company's market value was $13.4 billion.