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Leon Kaye headshot

Beyond Ground Beef: Del Taco Rolls Out Plant-Based Tacos

By Leon Kaye
Another win for the plant-based protein business: California-based Del Taco announced tacos with Beyond Meat crumbles instead of ground beef will soon be on the menu.

Another win for the plant-based protein business: California-based Del Taco announced tacos with Beyond Meat crumbles instead of ground beef will soon be on the menu.

From its origins with the very first taco stand in the Mojave Desert outpost of Yermo, California, Del Taco has since grown to well over 500 locations across 15 states. Like its California-based cousin, In-N-Out Burger, Del Taco enjoys cult status across the Golden State—and mind you, long before Lily Tomlin’s character on the Netflix hit Grace and Frankie made it a regular staple on the show. There’s no middle ground on Del Taco for Californians—you love it or leave it, and if you love it, no one can convince you otherwise.

The “leave it” crowd, however, may get a little smaller with Del Taco’s announcement that protein-packed yet meatless tacos will debut on the menu starting April 25.

This is another pointed shift in the fast-food industry, which overall has struggled in recent years. Among the many reasons, more consumers are willing to spend extra coin at fast-casual chains with a perceived social focus, such as Panera Bread and Chipotle.

But from next week on, vegan and vegetarian customers will have more options than the bean and cheese burrito. And as more Americans choose to curb their intake of red meat, Del Taco could score more visits from customers who still have those relentless late-night cravings but may opt away from fast food due to lack of choices. 

The development is also good news for Beyond Meat, which launched several years ago with a winning fake chicken product and partnered with Del Taco on the new offering. It's also another big step forward for the plant-based protein industry overall, which is scoring menu space at chains like Burger King and TGI Friday’s.

Of course, the planet benefits as well. There’s no shortage of data showing that the global meat sector has contributed its sizable share to climate change, not to mention the ongoing concerns over animal welfare within many of these companies’ supply chains. Del Taco’s announcement, paired with Burger King’s vegan burger trial in the St. Louis area, puts more pressure on fast-food companies to offer better, tastier, and ethical meatless options on their menu boards.

“We are excited to partner with Del Taco as they become the first national Mexican QSR [quick service restaurant] to offer a plant-based meat option on-menu,” said Ethan Brown, Beyond Meat’s founder and CEO, in a public statement. “Our plant-based crumbles offer the delicious taste, texture and satisfaction of ground beef, while offering the added health and sustainability benefits of plant-based meat.”

For now, Del Taco will offer two options: a vegetarian taco with cheese and an all-vegan choice with avocado. The company has not confirmed if Lily Tomlin’s character will be the spokeswoman for a future Beyond Burrito, but if such chatter isn’t going on in the company’s Orange County headquarters, it had better start now.

Meanwhile, the company is offering a free Beyond Meat-based taco; of course, that’s if you download the app and follow a few simple directions.

Image credit: Del Taco

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye