Fast Food, But Make it Plant-based

Jul 26, 2019

Vegetarian fast food—sounds like an oxymoron, right? The best part—it isn’t even that healthy, and it’s driving some major engagement for your fav fast food brands.

The push for an environmentally friendly and ethically sound approach to eating ramped up this year. Its most evident incarnation? Plant-based fast food. The well known ubiquity of the Beyond and Impossible Burgers is a part of one of 2019’s most interesting food movements—the mass expansion of vegetarian junk food. The fast food industry isn’t hesitating to jump on the bandwagon. This signals that plant-based eating is most definitely going mainstream. Of course, the fact that it’s in the form of a Whopper doesn’t hurt. 🍔

As the fast food industry continues to face intense competition and sluggish sales, many of the big chains have turned to menu innovation to capitalize on the plant-based eating trend. This is truly a testament to consumers’ power to shape the future of their go-to burger joint’s menu. It was only a matter of time—we all remember when “100% beef” and “antibiotic free” became marketing taglines thanks to buyer concern. This shift in consumer behavior is allowing OGs like A&W and Burger King to refresh their brand and menu strategy to appeal to a new set of customers, and Instagram provides one helluva brand vehicle to do so. Oh and did we mention? Reaping massive leaps in engagement as a result.

We took a closer look at the performance of plant-based content across some of the biggest players in the meatless menu game, to understand how it’s impacting their engagement and overall social strategy. One thing we discovered right off the bat, is that brands that featured images of their new plant-based menu items on Instagram saw an average of +30% increase in engagement compared to their typical average. These brands included @dunkin, @carlsjr, @redrobinburgers, @deltaco, @burgerking, and @awcanada. A big win for fast food brands that as a category, have struggled to diversify their content strategy. Let’s be real—double bacon cheeseburgers only have so many angles.

We also owe Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods a shout out for these new plant-based debuts. If you haven’t noticed, fast food chains are not only launching new menu items but they’re making sure their followers know they’re coming from a reliable source. Co-branding has been key for each chain’s new plant-based creation, especially via social—brands haven’t been missing the opportunity to tag their trusty supplier. Not to mention, both @beyondmeat and @impossiblefoods aren’t shying away from posting their own content to promote their new partnerships, adding an extra umph to reach for brands like Dunkin’ and Del Taco.

A beautifully simplistic plant-based breakfast sandwich saw the brand’s engagement jump to over 11%, something that’s almost unheard of for corporate fast food chains. To put that into perspective, the 2019 industry average of engagement for food brands sits at 4.9%. The people have spoken...this isn’t just a fast food fad.

Similarly, Del Taco jumped on the plant-based train with the launch of their Beyond Meat tacos. The brand uses Instagram to engage with their audience and share exclusive promos around their new meat-free options. Unlike other chains who have been slow to fully incorporate their new Beyond Meat menu into their social strategy, Del Taco keeps a consistent mix of plant-based content on their feed, posting an average of once per week. The brand is beating its average engagement and effectiveness rates as a result: plant-based posts on @deltacos’ feed showed an engagement of 2.2% vs. their average engagement rate of 1.2%. Their effectiveness rate saw a similar impact, showing an average of 7.21% on plant-based posts vs. a 4.18% average rate. Our eco-friendly hearts are swelling with joy, because once something takes off on Instagram, it’s hard to ignore its significance in pop culture.

There’s no denying that sustainability is top of mind right now but what comes as a surprise is that the meat-loving fast food industry quickly responded to the movement in a big way. In an industry that’s struggled to keep up with the fast-paced world of social, with old-school branding and business models, the plant-based evolution has been the perfect chance to turn menu innovation into social engagement. Sounds like the perfect combo to us. 👌

Header image: @impossible_foods

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plant based food brands on instagram

Jennifer Meech

Contributor at Dash Hudson.