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Taco Bell Is Making A Beloved Menu Item Plant-Based

Fast-food chains have had mixed success with that, but Taco Bell has always courted the vegetarian audience.

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Despite some claims of peaks and oversaturation, the alternative meat market is big business for the fast food industry — chains continue to place new items featuring plant-based proteins on their menus while the wider market is expected to surpass $17.4 billion by 2027.

But even though fellow fast-food competitors such as Chipotle  (CMG) - Get Free Report and Restaurant Brands International  (QSR) - Get Free Report-owned Burger King waded into the world of alternative meat entrees years ago and continue to see strong uptake, Yum! Brands  (YUM) - Get Free Report-owned Taco Bell has been slower to do so as many of its entrees can already be made naturally vegetarian with beans instead of beef.

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This may soon change when, on June 8, Taco Bell will begin testing a vegan version of the beloved Crunchwrap at select restaurants in Los Angeles, New York City and Orlando.

Taco Bell

This Taco Bell Test Includes Plant-Based Ground Beef And Vegan 'Blanco' Sauce

While the regular Crunchwrap puts seasoned beef in between layers of nacho cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and sour cream, the Vegan Crunchwrap will accomplish the same texture with plant-based ground beef and nacho and blanco sauces. The latter is meant to be a vegan take on sour cream.

The Vegan Crunchwrap is described as "proprietary, boldly seasoned" and will range in price between $4.99 to $6.79 depending on local cost of ingredients. According to Taco Bell, the three cities were selected due to their "notable vegan populations" while the test will run from June and until supplies last.

Depending on how much customers want to try it, the Vegan Crunchwrap will either be made permanent or go into the very big vault of Taco Bell's menu experiments.

First launched in 2016 as an LTO of its own, the Crunchwrap quickly became a beloved Taco Bell item in its own right. Many fans particularly enjoyed the unexpected crunch in what would otherwise be a soft texture and constantly  petitioned for its return.

This Is Why Customers Feel So Strongly About The Crunchwrap

Taco Bell first satisfied these demands in 2021 and brought the crunchwrap back again for the upcoming summer as part of a value deal package. The chain has, in the past, also called a breakfast tortilla with a layered hashbrown a "crunchwrap."

As the 2022 uproar over Cracker Barrel introducing plant-based sausage as one of many options shows, some far-right customers feel very strongly about plant-based meat. While social media response to the Vegan Crunchwrap has so far largely been positive, Taco Bell customers have not shown the greatest interest in plant-based proteins.

In 2021, Yum! Brands partnered with giant alternative meat producer Beyond Meat  (BYND) - Get Free Report in the hopes of bringing more alternative meat options to all of its brands but the initiative largely failed to take off with Taco Bell — neither the quesadilla featuring Beyond Carne Asada Steak nor the Crispy Melt Taco with a proprietary pea- and soy-based protein was made into a permanent item.

As of 2023, Taco Bell does not have any permanent items featuring a plant-based protein on its menus. Chief Executive Matt King told Axios in December 2022 that its plant-based protein products have gotten "mixed reviews" and "would work better if it was in areas that are much more open and interested in" — a strategy the chain is now trying with the Vegan Crunchwrap.

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