Taco Bell is the first fast food restaurant to offer a vegetarian menu in its 6,000 U.S. locations. The new menu will include 13 American Vegetarian Association (AVA) certified menu items.
Customers can also adapt the menu using the chain's 35 vegetarian ingredient offerings (26 of which are vegan). For example, customers can substitute beans whereever meat appears on the menu. The fast food chain's new vegetarian category will feature items like the 7-Layer Burrito and Cantina Power Veggie Bowl. The menu items will appear on its new website and smartphone ordering app.
“At Taco Bell, vegetarians are not an afterthought. We sell more than 350 million vegetarian menu items each year, but until now haven’t been vocal about it,” Brian Niccol, CEO, Taco Bell Corp said in a statement. “The recent launch of ta.co which makes customization easy made this the perfect time to move our vegetarian menu from the background to the forefront to further illustrate our commitment to delivering food that fits our customers’ evolving lifestyles.”
The mega-chain says that it’s responding to a quarter of consumers that are eating more vegetarian menu items. According to Taco Bell, it's about providing customers with easily accessible vegetarian menu items that don’t sacrifice taste and quality.
“We get it – being a vegetarian can be tough when you go out to eat,” said Niccol. “ We’re proud to treat meat lovers and vegetarians equally – equally delicious, equally craveable and equally affordable.”
Taco Bell has taken a number of steps in the past year to cater to health-conscious consumers. Back in May, it started removing artificial flavors and colors, high fructose corn syrup, added trans fats, and palm oil from items on its menu—a process which will be complete by the end of this year.
The bold move will impact 95 percent of Taco Bell’s products, but will not include co-branded items like PepsiCo or Doritos-flavored taco shells. By removing Yellow No. 6 from its nacho cheese and Blue No. 1 from its ranch dressing, for example, the chain hopes to appease consumers that are looking for more transparency and less complicated ingredients. The company also said it will remove artificial preservatives where possible by 2017.
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Image: Mike Mozart