Ontario to host global test for McDonald’s pulseburger

The biggest quick-service dining chain on the planet is set to use southwestern Ontario as the global test market for its first foray into Beyond Meat.

McDonald’s announced Thursday it will run a 12-week test for a plant-based burger it calls the “P.L.T.” exclusively at 28 restaurants in the region starting Monday.

“This test allows us to learn more about real-world implications of serving the P.L.T., including customer demand and impact on restaurant operations,” Ann Wahlgren, McDonald’s vice-president of global menu strategy, said in a release Thursday.

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“McDonald’s Canada has a proud legacy of innovating across our menu and we’re excited that Canadians will be the first in the world to try the P.L.T.,” McDonald’s Canada chef Jeff Anderson said in a separate release from the chain’s Canadian arm.

“We’re eager to hear what our customers love about the P.L.T. to help McDonald’s around the world better understand how a plant-based burger works in our restaurants.”

The P.L.T., short for “Plant. Lettuce. Tomato” is to be made with a plant-based patty developed “exclusively by McDonald’s, for McDonald’s,” using product from Los Angeles-based meat-substitute processor Beyond Meat.

The sandwich “enables us to assess Canadian’s growing demand for plant-based protein options as well as restaurant experience,” Michaela Charette, head of consumer insights for McDonald’s Canada, said Thursday. “During this test we’ll continue to listen to our guests to understand their tastes.”

Already available both at retail grocers and at other quick-service chains, Beyond Meat’s product lines are made with plant-based ingredients including pea, mung bean and rice protein, canola oil, coconut oil, potato starch, sunflower lecithin and beet juice, among others.

Publicly traded Beyond Meat’s shares — which had slipped earlier this month, after Tim Hortons announced it would pare back its Beyond Meat offerings in Canada to the Ontario and B.C. markets only — rose to around US$152 in Nasdaq trading Thursday morning, up from Wednesday’s close of US$138.32, its lowest level since June.

McDonald’s Beyond Meat burger is a relatively late entry in Canada’s dining market, where chains including A+W, Tim Hortons, Subway and White Spot have already launched or are testing Beyond Meat-based products on their menus. Another Canadian chain, Harvey’s, recently launched a plant-based burger developed with Maple Leaf Foods subsidiary Lightlife.

McDonald’s today has about 1,400 stores in Canada, which became the chain’s first market outside the U.S. when it opened a restaurant in Richmond, B.C. in 1967.

The company has also been a staunch promoter of Canadian beef, billing itself as the largest buyer of ground beef in the Canadian restaurant industry at more than 67 million pounds per year.

The chain in 2014 also undertook a 30-month Verified Sustainable Beef Pilot project in Canada, which it billed as the first program to make the criteria of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef actionable up the entire beef value chain.

That program involved 121 ranches, 34 backgrounders, 24 feedlots, two beef processing plants and a burger patty plant, the company said, all verifying their operations as sustainable through third-party assessment. — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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