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Chick-fil-A is testing a plant-based non-chicken sandwich

Plant-Based Food Moving Past Imitation as 70% of Consumers Look Beyond Familiar Foods
Plant-Based Food Moving Past Imitation as 70% of Consumers Look Beyond Familiar Foods 05:16

Chick-fil-A is jumping on the plant-based bandwagon.

The Atlanta chain said Thursday that it's testing its first plant-based entrée — a breaded cauliflower sandwich — at restaurants in Denver; Charleston, South Carolina; and the Greensboro, North Carolina, area. The test begins Feb. 13.

"Cauliflower is the hero of our new sandwich, and it was inspired by our original Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich," Leslie Neslage, director of menu and packaging, said in a statement. "Guests told us they wanted to add more vegetables into their diets, and they wanted a plant-forward entrée that tasted uniquely Chick-fil-A."

Chick-fil-A said it spent four years developing the sandwich. Chefs tested making patties with mushrooms, chickpeas and chopped vegetables, but kept returning to cauliflower for its mild flavor.

Stuart Tracy, Chick-fil-A culinary developer, said the cauliflower version "puts a delicious spin on what we're known for."

Like Chick-fil-A's signature chicken sandwich, the cauliflower steak is marinated, breaded, pressure-cooked and then served on a bun with two pickle slices. Milk and eggs are included in the preparation process, the company said.

Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are the two biggest names in the rapidly growing area of plant-based proteins seeking to imitate the taste and texture of animal meat, but there are dozens of brands. Plant-based options in grocery stores include ground "beef," burger patties, meatballs, sausages, "chicken" nuggets, pot pies and stir-fry kits.

The ingredients usually include a plant-based protein, such as soy or pea, and sometimes other beans, wheat or potato.

Perhaps best known for its hospitable employees and simplistic chicken sandwiches, Chick-fil-A was founded in 1967 in Georgia by S. Truett Cathy, whose son Dan Cathy now serves as chairman. The privately held company has grown into more than 2,800 locations across Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. 

Chick-fil-A is a relative latecomer to the plant-based fast food scene. Burger King started selling its Impossible Whopper — featuring a plant-based burger made by Impossible Foods — in 2019. Starbucks launched an Impossible sausage sandwich in 2020. McDonald's debuted its McPlant burger — developed with Beyond Meat — in the United Kingdom in 2021. And KFC began selling Beyond Meat nuggets last year.

Adding a plant-based option hasn't always fared well for restaurants. McDonald's abandoned its vegetarian McPlant burger last year after lackluster sales. Cracker Barrel's addition of a plant-based sausage to its menu last year sparked lively debate on social media from its customers. 

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