The food world has been waiting for McDonald’s to wade into the plant-based burger competition. Now, it’s planning to do so, but Americans won’t get to try it, unless they take a road trip.
McDonald’s said Thursday it is going to test its new P.L.T., which stands for plant, lettuce and tomato, at 28 restaurants in Ontario. The burger goes on sale September 30.
The plant part of the burger is a patty developed by Beyond Meat, one of the two powerhouses in plant-based burgers, the other being Impossible Foods.
Beyond Meat shares jumped $17.43 in mid-afternoon trading to $155.75.
The experiment shows that the company has paid attention to consumers’ growing interest in plant-based burgers.
However, the P.L.T. is not vegan. The sandwich includes a slice of processed cheese, and McDonald’s notes that it is cooked on grills with meat products, eggs and other burgers.
Test market. McDonald’s is following in the footsteps of other fast food chains that use Canada as their testing ground.
Starbucks, meanwhile, used Canada as a test market for a black sesame tea latte, jumping on the growing black sesame flavor trend.
Meanwhile, Canada was the source of one of McDonald’s international sandwiches, sold earlier this year. It marketed a tomato mozzarella chicken sandwich available with either crispy or grilled chicken.
Smaller market. With a population of 37 million, Canada is about one-ninth the size of the United States.
Ontario, its largest province, has a population of 14 million, smaller than New York State, but larger than Pennsylvania. Many residents live close to borders with the United States, and within reach of one of the Great Lakes.
The stakes are smaller. If McDonald’s P.L.T. is a flop, it can quickly pull it from the market and go back to the drawing board.
Likewise, if it is successful, McDonald’s can figure out how to expand its availability beyond the initial 28 outlets, avoiding the hiccups that can occur when demand outstrips supply.
The fast food market saw what happened this summer when Popeyes rolled out its chicken sandwich, only to run out of sandwiches in about two weeks.
Adventuresome palates. While Americans may not know much about Canadian cuisine beyond maple syrup and butter tarts, Canada actually has a wide variety of local and international food.
Its big grocery stores are chock a block with top quality products, especially when it comes to dairy and baked goods.
Canadian cities have standout coffee places, like Anchor Coffee in Windsor, Ontario, and Toronto is a festival of different types of global food, from China to India and Brazil.
Meanwhile, chefs from all over the world have built Montreal and Vancouver into top notch dining destinations.
So, fast food companies needn’t fear that Canadian consumers won’t take a risk on a new product.
The question, of course, is what the P.L.T. will taste like.
Burger King has gotten relatively good reviews in the U.S. with its Impossible Whopper, and Del Taco has made a commitment to its use of Beyond Meat, offering it in tacos and burritos.
Now, Canadians will get a preview of what Americans may be able to find at McDonald’s down the road.