Updated post, December 16, 2021: Testing out a new vegan meat product with Taco Bell is still in progress, a representative from Beyond Meat has confirmed to The Takeout. A statement from Taco Bell reads, in part:
Taco Bell and Beyond Meat are actively still working together to create a plant-based protein that’s completely innovative to the national QSR (quick serve restaurant) space. Evaluating multiple iterations of a product before bringing it to market is commonplace and not out of the ordinary.
Apparently the vegan carne asada research isn’t over yet, but no further ETA was issued. And a recent press release from Taco Bell also publicly reaffirms the ongoing research:
As expected, creating a product that is so revolutionary takes time and we could not be more excited about what we have planned in the coming months – stay tuned!
We can expect more vegan meat news in the coming year. Looks like Taco Bell still has this Beyond Meat product in the works for sure now.
Original post, December 14, 2021: We’ve been keeping close track of vegan meat substitutes for a while now, and it’s been interesting seeing how different fast food chains are approaching the matter. Taco Bell’s been quietly working on a version of vegan carne asada, which sounds potentially more exciting than a vegan ground beef substitute, but it might take longer than expected. Bloomberg reports that in October, Taco Bell tried samples of a product that Beyond Meat created for the company, but disliked them so much that the attempt was discontinued. Ouch.
Citing anonymous sources, Bloomberg says that two people at Beyond Meat working on the Taco Bell project were let go, but there’s still a possibility of another test in the future as the two companies are still working together. This isn’t just an indication of failed research and development, however, because apparently there are internal issues at Beyond Meat that run deep.
According to a previous Bloomberg article, it appears as if the company has been struggling with bringing some of its products to market, like its vegan chicken substitute, which has come with a cost to personnel.
A Beyond Meat spokesperson said, ominously, in the previous piece, “We have a culture of accountability to achieve results.” Bloomberg also said that many people believe that Chief Executive Officer Ethan Brown is to blame for the issues. Who knew vegan meat came with a side of drama? I’d watch that miniseries.
That being said, it’s likely Taco Bell just wasn’t a fan of what it was presented with. Joseph Szala, managing director of a restaurant consulting company Vigor, mentioned, “Taco Bell spends a lot of money on R&D and they have a high standard; the food really does matter to them. This has to be 100% on the nose, amazing and delicious.”
The news of Taco Bell’s attempt at vegan carne asada is new to me. I’m intrigued, but skeptical; ground meat substitutes are one thing, but trying to create a more substantial version of vegan meat seems trickier, especially for a fast food chain mainly known for meat-based dishes. Combine that with Beyond Meat’s operating issues, and that makes me feel like it’ll be a while before this product sees the light of day.