KFC Is Taking on Vegan Chicken Tenderloins

Photo shows KFC chicken with chips under the brand's Colonel Sanders logo. KFC U.S. could be launching vegan chicken sirloin in the near future.

KFC could be getting vegan chicken tenderloins with realistic “muscle fibers.”

According to Kevin Hochman, the U.S. president of both KFC and Pizza Hut at Yum! Brands, the plant-based meat trend is likely to continue expanding into the mainstream. And the development of increasingly authentic flavors and textures remains a priority for his team.

“We don’t think that plant-based is a fad, we think that’s something that’s going to continue to grow over time,” Hochman told Bloomberg in a recent interview. “We’re pretty bullish on that.”

When will KFC get vegan chicken tenderloin?

While KFC now has a variety of vegan options around the world—including the UK’s popular Quorn burger, China’s Cargill nuggets, and Canada’s Lightlife popcorn chicken—so far the company has only offered limited trials of Beyond Meat chicken options at U.S. stores. 

According to Hochman, the company is waiting for the perfect product before a national roll-out.

“The taste is always going to be No. 1,” he said. “What we’re trying to replicate is a tenderloin where you actually have the muscle fibers. The texture is a bit more pleasing than what we’d call a chewed-and-glued. It’s a different technology.”

“Our plan is to try to replicate that Kentucky Fried Chicken as close as we can, obviously without using the animal. A lot of that is about how the chicken cuts and tears and the mouthfeel,” added Hochman. “The gold standard is the chicken tenderloin or chicken strip.”

When asked if this “gold standard” is coming to KFC anytime soon, he said: “I’d like to talk to you soon about that.”

Vegan chicken and flexitarian demand

A 2020 report by MarketsandMarkets predicts that the global vegan meat market could reach $8.3 billion by 2025, and it’s likely that growing demand for plant-based chicken will play a significant role in this growth. New products are hitting stores (and restaurants) every month and proving incredibly popular with vegans, vegetarians, and meat-eaters alike.

“A lot of people think plant-based is about vegan or vegetarian,” said Hochman. “[But] over 90 percent of people who buy Beyond in the grocery store are also eating animal proteins. I eat plant-based hamburgers at home now because I think they’re as good as the regular burger.”

While Hochman acknowledged that plant-based meat is likely to occupy a “sizeable segment” of the fried chicken market (particularly with younger customers), he also suggested that its unlikely to completely replace traditional protein and animal products.

Demand for traditional chicken does remain high, but consumption at current levels is unsustainable. In addition to vegan chicken trials, KFC is also working on cultured meat as an environmentally-friendly alternative to animal products.

Cultured chicken is already available in Singapore, with Qatar set to become the second country to approve its sale. The race is now on to bring lab-grown chicken to the U.S. market.

Check out LIVEKINDLY’s complete guide to eating vegan at KFC here.