While many fast food and fast casual companies have been quick to hop aboard the plant-based bandwagon, Taco Bell stood its ground with a stance that vegetarian meant exactly that, as in beans or potatoes.
But times are a-changing, and the popular chain is responding in kind. As many news outlets including CNBC reported, last week the brand started to roll out the Cravetarian Taco, the meat-free filling of which is made from a combination of peas and garbanzo beans. So far the plant-based version of its Crunchy Taco Supreme is only available in one Orange County location until later this week, but based on the lot of the reviews, this version appears to be a winner. Imagine a 12-pack option with veggie tacos alongside its meat-based choices (shown above) for those of us that need a last-minute potluck option but would rather not bring a bucket of chicken or box of coffee.
That news follows on the heels of a February announcement that Taco Bell (as well as other Yum! Brands chains, including KFC and Pizza Hut) will work together in a partnership with Beyond Meat to develop plant-based menu items. As consumers increasingly seek alternatives to animal-based protein, food companies are compelled to respond in kind, and that is true of Taco Bell and its sister brands. Last summer, KFC explored the possibility of using cultured meat for its chicken nuggets, and as of last fall Beyond Meat sausages are among new topping options at Pizza Hut.
Whether or not Taco Bell decides it wants to hitch its vegetarian wagon to more “cravetarian” options or do more business with Beyond Meat — or both — it’s clear that Southern California-based Beyond Meat is on a winning streak. Recently, Carl’s Jr. doubled down on its dealings with the analog meat brand by way of a plant-based “menu takeover” at one of its Los Angeles locations. For those who’d rather grill a plant-based meal at home, now CVS carries some of the company’s products (check those mile-long receipts for potential coupons).
Taco Bell isn’t solely dabbling in alternative proteins as it boosts its sustainability street cred. As for those colorful tiny sauce packets that either end up in landfill or in the condiment morgue section of your refrigerator, change is also on the horizon. Last week, the brand said it would work with TerraCycle to find those pesky sauce packets a second life — we nominate making swag like cell phone cases or wallets so you can show off your affinity for the chain’s menu as you pay for future Taco Bell vegetarian orders.
Image credit: Taco Bell media relations
Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010, and became its Executive Editor in 2018. He's based in Fresno, CA, from where he happily explores California’s stellar Central Coast and the national parks in the Sierra Nevadas. He's worked an lived in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay, and has traveled to over 70 countries. He's an alum of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California.