Impossible Foods is teaming up with a local food manufacturer that is a key supplier for McDonald’s, a sign that the Chicago-based restaurant giant is preparing to experiment with its own meatless burger here in the U.S., industry experts said.
OSI Group, a private food supplier based in Aurora, is one of McDonald’s main beef suppliers and is now partnering with Impossible Foods to meet the rapidly expanding demand for meatless burgers.
The partnership, and McDonald’s recent forays into meatless alternatives with the release of a vegan burger in Germany this year, is leading industry participants to believe this is a crucial first step for an expanding menu at the golden arches.
“By early next year, you will likely see a plant-based burger test in the U.S.,” said R.J. Hottovy, an analyst at Morningstar.
Hottovy cited Impossible Burger shortages since launching fast-food partnerships as a reason McDonald’s has been hesitant to jump into the meatless craze.
“There just isn’t enough supply to launch on a nationwide scale for McDonald’s,” says Hottovy.
The agreement states that production will begin at multiple OSI plants starting next month and will continue through 2019 and next year.
“As a leading global protein provider, OSI is proud to partner with Impossible Foods on production of alternative, plant-based proteins to meet the demands of a growing market in line with consumer trends,” Kevin Scott, senior executive vice president at OSI North America, said in a statement.
“This deal is truly a manufacturing collaboraiton, not one of business development per se,” a spokeswoman for Impossible Foods said in a statement.
A spokeswoman declined to elaborate on any details beyond the statement. McDonald’s did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Once perceived as a potential industry fad, restaurant consultant John Gordon now sees McDonald’s growing more interested in the meatless space.
“There is so much talk about it, they are going to get pounded until they start to test it somewhere (in the U.S.).”
And with the connection between OSI and McDonald’s, the partnership gives the Chicago burger giant “substantial” knowledge in manufacturing, logistics, and sourcing the product for its roughly 14,000 stores nationwide.
“Anytime McDonald’s does anything, logistics is just a huge, huge consideration,” said Gordon.
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