Slathered in ketchup, mustard and something that’s being described as a “mayonnaise-style sauce,” with lettuce and tomato spilling out of the toasted bun, McDonald’s (MCD) new P.L.T. burger tastes just like any other one on its menu.
Except it’s not.
The P.L.T. – which stands for plant, lettuce and tomato – is McDonald’s first plant-based burger and, for the next 12 weeks, it will be tested out exclusively in Canada.
McDonald’s announced Thursday that it is partnering with Beyond Meat (BYND) to try out a plant-based burger at 28 locations across southwestern Ontario. The launch of the P.L.T. burger, which will be sold for CAD$6.49, marks McDonald’s first-ever offering of a plant-based product, a move that has been highly anticipated by investors as well as analysts on Wall Street.
Beyond Meat shares jumped 14 per cent in pre-market trading on Thursday, and ended the day up nearly 12 per cent. McDonald’s shares remained flat.
While some investors may have been surprised that a relatively small region in Canada was selected for the 12-week trial (and not somewhere in the United States), McDonald’s Canada’s head of consumer insights said the market provided a good opportunity to test out the new offering.
“Canada is a really exciting market globally because, No. 1, Canadians love food,” Michaela Charette said in an interview with Yahoo Finance Canada at the company’s Canadian headquarters.
“No. 2, we’re really accepting of diverse flavours. And No. 3, there is demand in our market for this.”
McDonald’s is relatively late to the plant-based burger party, with many of its competitors in Canada and abroad already having launched their own versions with partners such as Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods and Nestle.
In Canada, A&W has been serving Beyond Meat burgers at locations across the country since 2018. Tim Hortons also rolled out Beyond Meat burgers and breakfast sandwiches at Canadian locations this summer – although it appears that not all customers were keen on the product. (The coffee and doughnut chain confirmed last week that it will be pulling its Beyond Meat burger and breakfast sandwiches from all provinces, with the exception of Ontario and British Columbia.)
“We know we’re not the first to market with this, but for us it’s about taking our time to get it right and deliver a product that meets our standards,” Charette said.
Although McDonald’s would not disclose how long it has been developing the P.L.T. burger for, the company said the patty was developed in partnership with the culinary innovation team in Canada. McDonald’s Canada’s chef Jeff Anderson, who was involved in the development of the burger, said it’s unlike the Beyond Meat patties you’ll find elsewhere.
“When we partnered with Beyond Meat, we wanted to make sure that it delivered on that McDonald’s flavour. So it’s not the same as what you can buy in grocery stores or what some of our competitors sell,” Anderson said.
“We wanted to make sure we delivered that truly iconic and unique flavour that fits with our brand.”
The P.L.T. burger, which will be cooked on the same grill as other McDonald’s products, will roll out at select locations in Aylmer, Exeter, Ingersoll, London, Sarnia, St. Thomas, Strathroy, Tilsonburg, and Woodstock, Ont., beginning on Monday. It will be available for 12 weeks, after which McDonald’s will evaluate whether to expand the launch to additional locations.
McDonald’s would not say whether the partnership with Beyond Meat will extend outside the trial in southwestern Ontario, but that the company will be looking at sales and guest feedback to determine how to proceed.
“The results are really going to help dictate what happens next,” Charette said. “We want to take the time to get it right and deliver an iconic McDonald’s burger that gives our guests another great choice and a variety of menu options.”