Beyond Meat looks to revolutionize chicken nuggets

If Beyond Meat could get people quickly ordering its newest innovation, perhaps the chicken shortage plaguing restaurants may ease by the year 2023. 

On Thursday, the plant-based food company led Ethan Brown took the wraps off its new breaded chicken tenders. The tendies — as one would surmise from Beyond Meat — are plant-based, with the starring ingredient giving it a chicken flavor being the fava bean. 

Beyond Meat (BYND) is no stranger to the faux chicken game. At one-time it sold plant-based grilled chicken strips and offered a breaded, plant-based chicken offering at Yum! Brands-owned KFC in 2020. The new iteration of tenders is different than the KFC version which was designed to replicate the texture of whole muscle chicken, says a Beyond Meat spokesperson. 

But the latest iteration appears to be Beyond Meat's most serious attempt at transforming the fast-food chicken strip backdrop long dominated by chicken tenders at Burger King and the McDonald's McNugget. 

"This breaded chicken is such a part of American culture. It's part of eating out, it's a part of the menus throughout the restaurant industry. So we wanted to be relevant in the breaded chicken trends that are going on," Brown told Yahoo Finance on a Zoom call. 

The offering will not be sold in retail, though that is likely to happen down the line. Beyond's chicken tenders will be sold at 400 restaurant locations across the U.S., most notably Epic Burger and Dog Haus. 

To be sure, the fast-food industry will probably welcome with open arms what Beyond Meat is selling here as a way to alleviate stress on their supply of traditional chicken.

With many fast-food chains pursuing chicken options during the pandemic, that has pushed up prices of birds more than 50% over the past year. Chicken wing prices have tripled, sending a chain such as WingStop off to launch an online brand that only sells thighs. 

Meanwhile, labor shortages at chicken producers have put pressure on the availability of chicken. 

Explains Brown, "This is about us working with the quick-service restaurants that are forward leaning. We've got some great ones here with McDonald's and Yum! Brands, whether it's Pizza Hut, KFC or Taco Bell. It's not to disrupt what consumers doing, but rather just provide them with that alternative so that when your niece goes to a McDonald's or to a KFC, they're able to have that same fun experience of a chicken nugget or chicken tender but have it in a way that's just better for them and better for the planet."

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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