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Hardee's and Carl's Jr. lean into plant-based meat with new breakfast menus

Posted at 7:59 AM, Dec 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-18 09:59:57-05

The plant-based trend used to be all about burgers. Now, it's breaking into breakfast.

Sister brands Hardee's and Carl's Jr. are adding a suite of new breakfast items featuring plant-based products made by Beyond Meat.

Starting Wednesday, Carl's Jr. is serving a Beyond Sausage burrito, made with Beyond's meatless sausage, egg, cheese and other ingredients, as well as a Beyond Sausage egg and cheese biscuit. The chain already sells a plant-based version of its Famous Star burger featuring a Beyond Meat patty and has launched a limited-time Beyond BBQ cheeseburger.

For its part, Hardee's is launching a Beyond Sausage burrito and a Beyond Sausage egg and cheese biscuit — as well as a biscuit with just the sausage — and a plant-based version of its Thickburger featuring a Beyond patty, all on December 30.

Restaurant chains are aggressively trying to attract customers for breakfast, a rare growing segment for fast food chains. Wendy' recently announced that it will start serving breakfastnationally, and IHOP is launching its first ever fast-casual chain, Flip'd, in an attempt to sell breakfast to a new set of customers.

Dunkin' has used the plant-based trend to help boost breakfast sales at its restaurants.

The chain tested out a Beyond Sausage sandwich at its Manhattan locations this summer. The sandwich performed so well that the company decided to roll the product out nationally ahead of schedule.

"We were very pleased with how it performed in Manhattan," said Dunkin' CEO David Hoffman during an analyst call discussing third-quarter earnings, adding that the brand was especially happy to see customers buying the product more than once — a sign that they see the plant-based sandwich as more than just a novelty.

Demand for plant-based products has been spiking as consumers look for ways to eat healthier and reduce their environmental impact. Beyond Meat, which had a successful IPO in May, is becoming increasingly available to consumers looking for meat substitutes. Its products are now served in many restaurants and sold at retailers like ShopRite, Safeway, Publix and Target.

"We initially focused on lunch and dinner with our burger and our sausage links, but now we're looking at breakfast," said Chuck Muth, Beyond Meat's chief growth officer. Beyond is working on plant-based bacon, in addition to other meat substitutes.

Hardee's and Carl's Jr., which are both owned by CKE, are betting that the success they've seen with Beyond Meat burgers will extend into breakfast, which drives about 20% of sales for Carl's Jr. and 40% of sales for Hardee's.

Carl's Jr. has sold about 6.7 million Beyond burgers since it first starting selling Beyond products about a year ago, said Patty Trevino, senior vice president of brand marketing for the two brands.

"We are definitely seeing some repeat consumers coming in for this product," Trevino said, which has encouraged Carl's Jr. And Hardee's to serve Beyond products during breakfast, she said.

"We wanted to not only give these guests an opportunity to come in for lunch and dinner, but also come in and enjoy this platform on our breakfast items, at well," she said.