New York (CNN Business)Dunkin’ is expanding its breakfast menu with a trendy new item: a meatless sausage sandwich.
Dunkin’ is the latest fast food chain to start selling meat substitutes. Others, like Burger King, Tim Hortons and Little Caesars, have also partnered with Beyond or Impossible Foods — Beyond’s main rival — to add plant-based foods to their menus.
The trend is heating up as people try to eat less meat for health reasons and to reduce their impacts on the planet. US retail sales of plant-based foods have grown 11% in the past year, according to a July report from trade group Plant Based Foods Association and the Good Food Institute, a nonprofit that supports plant-based businesses.
Barclays predicts the alternative meat sector could reach about $140 billion over the next decade, capturing about 10% of the global meat industry.
People who are embracing plant-based foods aren’t necessarily abandoning meat altogether, and fast food chains aren’t trying to attract strict vegans. For example, the new Dunkin’ sandwich is served with American cheese and eggs and therefore is not a vegan product unless modified. The Little Caesars Impossible pizza is also made with cheese. Both Beyond Meat(BYND) and Impossible Foods make plant-based proteins designed to taste and cook like real meat.
Dunkin’ is “looking at” a fully vegan sandwich, the company’s CEO Dave Hoffman told CNN Business. “Right now we’re targeting flexitarians,” he added, and “want to make sure that as we roll this out, we can give the customer a chance to customize this.”
Beyond and Dunkin’ worked together to develop the fake sausage, which is only available at Dunkin’. The companies plan to continue to partner on new products.
“We’re going to follow Dunkin’s lead,” Beyond Meat CEO Ethan Brown told CNN Business.
For Dunkin’(DNKN), the new menu item is also a way to continue to increase its breakfast offerings.
The morning remains the only growth market for the fast-food industry, according to NPD. Breakfast sales at fast-food restaurants rose 1% last year, but overall sales were flat. More people prepare breakfast at home than any other meal, so quick-serve restaurants believe there is room for growth.
Earlier this year, the coffee and donut chain added two new limited-time breakfast items to its menu: the Egg White Bowl, which is made with egg whites, spinach, roasted potatoes, cheddar cheese and onions; and the Sausage Scramble Bowl, made with scrambled eggs, sausage, cheddar cheese, peppers and onions. It’s also experimented with “better-for-you Power Breakfast Sandwiches.”
A plant-based option could help entice more customers away from competitors like McDonald’s(MCD), Panera and Taco Bell.