plant-based-meat-sausage-trend.gif Courtesy of Tim Hortons

Sausage is latest trend in plant-based ‘meats’

Tim Hortons, Little Caesars, Pieology add vegan analogs

Sausage might be the perfect vehicle for chains looking to add vegan meat substitutes to their menus, and more restaurants are embracing them to use as breakfast “meat” and pizza toppings.

Although meatless burgers have been spreading rapidly on menus at independent and chain restaurants — both traditional grain-and-vegetable patties and the newer, higher-tech plant-based analogs intended to look and taste like beef — duplicating the ground beef that Americans love so much is tricky.

Sausage, on the other hand, has varying textures, and much of their flavor comes from seasonings rather than the meat itself, giving their creators considerable leeway.

Consumers can experience a different kind of “meat lovers” pizza at select Little Caesars restaurants. The 4,300-unit concept worked with Impossible Foods to offer a plant-based sausage on the new Impossible Supreme pizza, the Detroit-based chain announced earlier this week.  

Little Caesars wasn’t the first chain to offer a pizza topping made with plant-based protein. In January, fast-casual pizza chain Pieology announced three vegan “meat” toppings including “spicy Italian sausage rounds.”

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“I think the most likely consumer is a meat-eating consumer,” Little Caesars president and CEO David Scrivano told CNBC. “What we’ve seen is a trend. It’s kind of a long-term trend, but it’s really kind of hit a tipping point in the last year or so where so many people are meat eaters, but they’re trying plant-based alternatives to either help their diet or they just want a different flavor.”

These sausages are made with plant-based protein developed by Impossible Foods, caramelized onions, mushrooms, and green peppers, according to a release from Little Caesars.

"Customers have been asking for Impossible Sausage for years — and when Little Caesars said they wanted a unique, delicious pizza topping, our team developed more than 50 prototypes," Impossible Foods CEO and founder Patrick O. Brown said in a news release.

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Tim Hortons is teaming up with another plant-based meat company that’s grabbing headlines — Beyond Meat. The bakery-café brand is offering three different breakfast sandwiches with Beyond Breakfast Sausage at select Canadian locations, the chain announced last week. 

"Canadians are looking to incorporate plant-based options into their diets and we're thrilled to partner with Beyond Meat to test three Beyond Meat Breakfast Sandwiches — including an entirely vegan offering if the market test confirms the potential we see for the platform," Tim Hortons president Alex Macedo said in a news release. Tim Hortons, with more than 700 units, is owned by Burger King parent Restaurant Brands International Inc.

After Tim Hortons’ announcement, Beyond Meats, which recently started trading on Wall Street, saw its shares soar.

Dunkin' could be the next to offer a plant-based sausage sandwich.

Dunkin’ Brands Inc. CEO David Hoffmann announced during the company’s latest earnings call that it, too, would be looking to plant-based proteins, specifically for breakfast. Sausage makes up a majority of Dunkin’s meat offerings.

In a statement, the company wrote: "We don’t have any news to share at this time about adding plant-based proteins to the menu; it is something we are exploring as part of our commitment to offer a wide variety of choices that meet the evolving needs and preferences of our guests.”

Contact Gloria Dawson at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter: @GloriaDawson

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