According to The NPD Group, there were 228 million servings of veggie burgers and veggie sandwiches ordered at quick service restaurants (QSRs) in the year ending May, up 10% from a year ago.
In addition to plant-based burgers and sandwiches, this number includes burgers/sandwiches that are made with only vegetables and no meat or meat substitutes.
However, beef burgers are still by far the most popular burger ordered at QSRs.
There were 6.4 billion beef burgers ordered at QSRs in the year ending May 2019, and though growth is flat compared to year ago, beef burgers are still the top sandwich ordered at U.S. restaurants, reports NPD’s CREST service, which continually tracks how U.S. consumers use restaurants. The strong year-over-year growth of plant-based burgers is primarily due to increased availability at major QSR chains.
The increased availability of plant-based burgers on QSR menus has created trial on the part of beef burgers buyers.
Beef burger buyers, who purchased beef burgers at QSRs an average of 18 times in the year ending April 2019, did give plant-based burgers a try, purchasing them at QSRs two times in the period. Another way to look at it is that 95% of plant-based buyers have made a beef burger purchase within the past year, according to NPD’s receipt harvesting serving, Checkout.
Although vegetarians and vegans are certainly contributing to the growth in plant-based, they still represent a small (single digits) percentage of the U.S. population and aren’t the primary contributors. A larger percentage of the overall adult population, 18%, are trying to get more plant-based foods into their diets, according to NPD’s Health Aspirations and Behavioral Tracker.
The popularity of plant-based foods is being fueled by consumers’ want to get more protein in their diets (60% of U.S. adults want more protein in their diets), concerns for animal welfare and how meat products are brought to market, sustainability and what they perceive to be healthier nutrition.
“Plant-based burgers allow consumers to substitute without sacrifice. They get the ‘burger’ experience while assuaging their need for more protein and social concerns,” said Darren Seifer, NPD food and beverage industry analyst. “With that said, U.S. consumers have not given up on beef burgers but are willing to mix things up every now and then.”