It seems that every week in the world of vegan food news is more exciting than the last and this week is no exception. Fast-food chain McDonald’s is one step closer to adding its first meatless burger, the McPlant, to its menu across the United States. In the meantime, fast-food chain Amy’s Drive-Thru—which serves a fully meatless menu—is aiming to open 30 locations by 2027. Outside of the fast-food world, ice cream brand Coolhaus is getting a dairy-free makeover thanks to Perfect Day’s animal-free whey, there’s a new plant-based brand just for kids, Chance the Rapper just got a vegan Ben & Jerry’s flavor, and a few vegan startups raised some serious cash this week. Read on for more.
1McDonald’s McPlant test is doing McGreat
The Golden Arches are glowing bright this week at eight locations of McDonald’s where McPlant burgers—the fast-food chain’s first meatless burger made in partnership with Beyond Meat—are hitting their sales targets. Selling about 70 McPlant burgers per day, according to Wall Street analysts, means that McDonald’s is poised to roll out the McPlant to additional locations and eventually nationwide.
While McDonald’s and Beyond Meat are staying hush about the expansion plans for now, we’re waiting for the day when plant-based food at McDonald’s won’t be so hard to come by. Now if McDonald’s US could go the way of McDonald’s UK—where the McPlant is offered as a fully vegan burger, cheese and all—we’d order them by the dozen, hold the fries.
2Amy’s Drive-Thru embarks on massive expansion
Speaking of fast-food innovations, Amy’s—you know, the maker of that vegan margherita pizza in your freezer and the soup on your shelf—is expanding its drive-through concept down the West Coast, starting with its fourth location in Roseville, CA. Amy’s Drive-Thru serves a wide variety of better-for-you fast food—including burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, burritos, mac and cheese, and milkshakes—all of which can be ordered vegan.
Amy’s Drive-Thru plans to operate up to 30 locations by 2027 with its first Southern California outposts planned for Thousand Oaks and Aliso Viejo next year. Sounds like a cross-Cali road trip is in order. Who’s paying for gas?
3Coolhaus ditches dairy
What’s cooler than cool? Woman-owned ice cream brand Coolhaus is not only inspiring and supporting LGBTQ and BIPOC communities with its spirited flavors but is now transitioning to become a dairy-free company. The brand was acquired this week by The Urgent Company (TUC), the consumer packaged goods arm of food-tech startup Perfect Day—which makes dairy identical proteins without exploiting cows.
Coolhaus already offers some pretty exciting vegan pints, ice cream sandwiches, and cones made with a pea protein base but now, it will transition its remaining dairy pints to become dairy-free thanks to Perfect Day’s revolutionary animal-free whey. Need something to look forward to in 2022? A co-branded product between TUC’s Brave Robot brand and Coolhaus is on the way.
4Chance the Rapper gets a Ben & Jerry’s flavor
This week we learned that Ben & Jerry’s has been working closely with Chance the Rapper to recreate his favorite childhood dessert. Coming soon to shelves and scoop shops in both dairy and vegan varieties, Mint Chocolate Chance pays tribute to the rapper’s love of homemade fudge brownies topped with mint ice cream. The vegan version is made with a creamy sunflower base which is stuffed full of soft brownies just like Chance’s mom used to make.
Another perk of the new Mint Chocolate Chance flavor is that a portion of its proceeds will be donated to support SocialWorks, the musical artist’s nonprofit which helps empower youth through the arts, education, and civic engagement.
5Animal-free milk for human kids
Cow milk has always been for calves. However, human kids just got a brand new option with the launch of Kiki Milk, a vegan milk formulated specifically for kids with the help of nutritionists and pediatricians. The debut product from Hawaii-based PlantBaby—a kid-centered brand created by parents Alex and Lauren Abelin—KiKi Milk features whole food organic ingredients and nutrient-dense superfoods such as oats, sprouted pumpkin seeds, and spinach, that are omega-rich and provide ample plant-based calcium and protein.
“At PlantBaby, we have identified a major gap, based on our family’s personal experiences, to offer nutritional products that are designed with growing kids in mind,” the Abelins said in a statement. “Our first product Kiki Milk will offer a clean, nutritional plant-based milk, to support the nutritional journey from childhood to adulthood, while developing early habits that are delicious and accessible.”
Kiki Milk comes in Original and Chocolate flavors and future PlantBaby launches will be geared toward toddlers, with the aim of offering an expansive plant-based portfolio of products for children of all ages.
6 Vegan brands get the big bucks
A few vegan companies got a big financial boost this week. New brand jack & annie’s just raised $23 million to support its mission of popularizing jackfruit, the meatiest plant-based meat of all. The company launched in 2020 and currently offers 10 frozen food items (such as sausage links, buffalo wings, and meatballs, all made from jackfruit) which are already sold at 1,500 retailers, including Whole Foods Market, Wegmans, and Target. To create its products, jack & annie’s works with 1,000 farmer families in India to support their livelihoods while repurposing would-be wasted jackfruit into nutritious plant-based foods.
European brand Oddlygood also announced a big investment this week, closing a $28 million round to fuel its international expansion. Founded in 2018, the Helsinki-based brand is known for its dairy alternatives, including vegan cheddar and mozzarella cheeses, which are available at Koti Pizza—the largest pizza chain in the Nordic Region. With new funding in hand, Oddlygood aims to bring its oat-based vegan yogurt to US retailers in 2022. From here, the new year looks pretty bright.
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