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Vegan fast-food options: From Taco Bell to McDonald’s, Americans are searching

Vegan fast-food options: From Taco Bell to McDonald’s, Americans are searching
[Photo: courtesy of Impossible Foods]

Many fast-food chains have been slow to embrace the needs of vegan diners. Even when they do offer plant-based options, the results can be messy—as was the case with Burger King, whose Impossible Whopper attracted a lawsuit in November from a vegan who didn’t appreciate that the sandwich was cooked alongside regular meat.

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Other chains have been careful to roll out their fake-meat options more broadly. McDonald’s recently expanded its test with Beyond Meat in Canada only. There’s no word yet on when the much-anticipated P.L.T. sandwich will come to the United States.

But if restaurant chains are proceeding with caution, it’s not for lack of curiosity from consumers. According to new data from SEMrush, an analytics company that studies keywords, Google searches in the United States for fast-food meatless options are on the rise. Monthly average searches for major fast-food chains along with the word “vegan” rose 12% from 2018 to 2019. For the word “vegetarian,” they jumped 35%.

That’s probably the result of many factors, including more news in general about plant-based food companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, but it’s also a sign that potential customers for fast-food chains are at least vegan-curious, if not outright vegans.

Here are the top five fast-food chain searches along with “vegan”:

  1. “Vegan Taco Bell” (total searches January 2018-August 2019: 456,500)
  2. “Vegan Starbucks” (total searches January 2018-August 2019: 216,500)
  3. “Burger King Vegan” (total searches January 2018-August 2019: 127,700)
  4. “McDonald’s Vegan” (total searches January 2018-August 2019: 139,500)
  5. “Dunkin’ Donuts Vegan” (total searches January 2018-August 2019: 116,100)

It makes sense that Taco Bell would top the list, as it’s known for being among the more vegetarian-friendly chains.

Interestingly, though, not all of those restaurants saw an increase in searches in 2019. McDonald’s, for instance, saw a dip in average monthly searches from 7,025 to 6,900, SEMrush’s data shows. Ditto for Starbucks, whose vegan searches dipped from an average of 11,225 to 10,225.

But the overall trend shows an increase in searches when all 18 restaurant chains in the data set were counted. Those included brands not exactly known for being vegan friendly, like Dairy Queen (25,850 searches) and even Arby’s (25,600 searches).

Get the memo, guys: There’s a market out there waiting to be tapped.

[US fast food restaurants + vegan]
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