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Yum! Brands' Taco Bell Tries Out Its Own In-House Plant-Based Meat

By Rhian Hunt - Apr 21, 2021 at 6:55PM

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The test is running ahead of a planned trial of a Beyond Meat product.

Hopping aboard the plant-based meat craze, Taco Bell, a subsidiary of Yum! Brands (YUM 2.82%), is launching a new product to test customer demand for meat alternatives. CNBC reports the Cravertarian Taco -- now on sale in Tustin, California -- features Taco Bell's own plant-protein meat substitute, made from a mix of pea and chickpea protein.

Taco Bell was previously reluctant to offer plant-based meat dishes because it already had vegetarian items. A year ago, in March 2020, the company programmed its digital ordering kiosks so customers could choose to see only vegetarian offerings  -- a list of approximately 50 items -- by entering the so-called "Veggie Mode." The company said "customers can further customize their orders while in Veggie Mode, with a total of over 20 million possible vegetarian menu combinations," Food & Wine reported.

A Taco Bell restaurant in California's Orange County.

Image source: Taco Bell, Yum! Brands.

Now, the Cravertarian Taco is described as using a "proprietary, all-new boldly seasoned plant-based protein." The company says the faux meat can be swapped into most of its other menu items, "from chalupas to burritos," to create a customized vegetarian or even vegan option for hungry plant-eaters, Yahoo! reports. The basic Cravertarian Taco itself isn't vegan, since it features Cheddar cheese and reduced-fat sour cream.

Back in January, Taco Bell and plant-based meat manufacturer Beyond Meat partnered on a future plant-protein test. Taco Bell, working at keeping up with trends through measures like launching its first U.S. digital-only location, teased that partnership today without providing specifics, saying that sometime in "the next year, the brand is excited to team up with Beyond Meat to create a new innovative plant-based protein," as a separate offering from the Cravertarian Taco.

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