The term vegan didn’t start up until the 1940s, and it’s been a growing trend ever since. Veganism means abstaining from all animal products, especially when it comes to food. Avoiding meat, eggs, dairy, honey and more is becoming more common, even if veganism doesn’t come close to representing a majority. It’s estimated that there are 16 million people in the United States alone that are vegetarian or vegan, and that veganism has grown by 500 percent in the last three years in the US.
Because of these growing numbers, vegetarian and vegan restaurants have been popping up all over the world, and it also means that existing chains are going to have to adapt to keep up with higher demand. The world’s most popular fast food chain, McDonald’s, is among those that are looking to expand into the vegan market.
Currently, there aren’t many vegan options at the majority of McDonald’s locations outside of the side salad, most condiments, buns and drinks, along with bagels and oatmeal. Choosing to go vegan can be difficult if you want to give up the old McDonald’s standbys like the hamburger, but the fast food chain is hoping you don’t have to. Recently, they’ve introduced the McVegan, and they’re testing it in one very particular market.
In Tampere, Finland, McDonald’s offers up the McVegan with a soy-based patty that consists of no animal products. For the toppings, you get pickles, mustard, lettuce, onion and tomato on a sesame seed bun. The french fries in Finland are already vegan, and are now being touted to the public as such. In the United States, you won’t find vegan fries at McDonald’s since they’re fried in hydrolyzed milk.
McDonald’s has said that the specific Finland location is the only one that will be getting the McVegan…for now. After hearing about the news, those in other countries have taken to social media to ask for McDonald’s to make the McVegan a permanent staple of their menu. One user said “Please bring your vegan burger to Seattle. We will eat them all day.” Another added “Bring the McVegan burger to the U.S. plus vegan fries, I’ll guarantee they will sell. Definitely bring me back.”
But why Tampere, Finland? It’s not exactly a small city with more than 223,000 residents, but it seems a bit odd to restrict this test item into a non-global city outside of the United States. The population of vegetarians and vegans in Finland is also quite similar to the United States at six percent. Experts speculate that it’s the ease of Finland’s vegan preparation of french fries that made the logistics much easier than in a United States location.
The quick response that McDonald’s has received has the fast food giant feeling optimistic about introducing more vegan and vegetarian friendly options to their menu. Christoffer Ronnblad is the Marketing Director for McDonald’s in Finland. He said “We are following the reaction with interest and we are happy to receive feedback. That’s the purpose of the trial.” He added that “The vegan hamburger required extensive in-house production development. The (McVegan) steak is soy based. We were really passionate about finding a steak that tastes really good.”
After hearing some of the comments that customers have been giving, Ronnblad said “At least the feedback that we have quickly received and what reception has been online…it has been quite positive. We are going to be positive in this test.” The price point hasn’t been one that’s talked about, leading many to believe that it will end up costing just the same as most of the other gourmet burgers, if not just a bit more. Either way, it’s not going to be a $10 burger if introduced in the United States.
McDonald’s goes through a very long testing process before adding anything to their menu. Even some that were incredibly popular end up getting removed due to high costs, low volume sales and other aspects. You might remember at one point that McDonald’s has had popular items such as the Chicken Selects or the Big ‘n’ Tasty fall by the wayside eventually, while every store carries the signature Big Mac that was added to the menu in 1967.
If the McVegan does get rolled out to stores around the world, will it become the vegan equivalent of the Big Mac? Or will it simply fall flat and become a regional taste that you won’t be able to find in smaller cities. Only time will tell, but the early returns on the McVegan have been a pleasant surprise.