Plant-based beef alternatives took the world by storm in 2019. Burger King launched Impossible Whoppers across the United States, and Beyond Meat’s breakfast sausage debuted in Dunkin’s croissant sandwiches. But the fervour for meatless “meats” isn't stopping with beef and 2020 is the year of the plant-based “chicken”. Plant-based “chicken” is nothing new. One of Beyond Meat’s first products was a frozen “chicken” product that crashed and burned. Grocery-focused companies like Quorn and Gardein have had vegetarian “d chicken” products in frozen aisles for a while now. However, it wasn’t until this year that this flavour of protein started stealing the spotlight. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Beyond Meat (@beyondmeat) on Mar 18, 2020 at 4:48pm PDT Plant-based chicken’s debut on the main stage was KFC and Beyond’s wildly successful first test of fried “chicken” in August 2019. Then, in January 2020, the companies announced an extended test of the product in two markets in February. Why plant-based fast food isn’t any healthier than eating meat The fried nugget entered the scene accompanied by a slew of other plant-based “chicken” products. On March 5, El Pollo Loco rolled out its Chickenless Pollo nationwide. UK start-up Daring Foods, which launched in the US this year, has received a US$10 million investment from Rastelli Foods Group, a meat-processing company. Fronted by former Unilever Americas president Kees Kruythoff, vegan media and plant-based “chicken company” LiveKindly has closed a US$200 million funding round, according to a press release. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Nyah (@life_loading123) on Dec 8, 2019 at 8:55am PST Why plant-based chicken is exploding now So why is plant-based “chicken” finally happening now? There could be several factors at play. First, chicken alternatives with meat-like muscle texture may have been harder to develop than ground beef alternatives. Beyond Meat CEO Ethan Brown said in an earlier interview that developing a product that pulls apart like chicken meat needed additional research. Can this quirky Korean beginner’s guide to veganism convert meat lovers? “One of the key things with poultry is you have to get the muscle structure right,” Brown said. “With something that’s ground, you don’t have to have that same muscle structure, but with chicken, the consumer wants that muscle structure.” Another possible factor is the chicken sandwich’s meteoric rise in the past year. After Popeyes released its wildly popular chicken sandwich in August, the customer response galvanised other fast-food chains like McDonald’s to focus on creating competition-worthy chicken sandwiches. Chicken has been a growing sector in fast food, led by Chick-fil-A. But Popeyes’ chicken sandwich brought the protein to the forefront. With chicken sandwiches set to become even more ubiquitous, there has never been a better time for plant-based versions to enter the market. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Beyond Meat (@beyondmeat) on Jan 2, 2020 at 4:58pm PST Lastly, the incredible performance of Impossible Foods’ and Beyond Meat’s “beef” products acted as a proof-of-concept for the plant-based sector in general. The unprecedented demand for plant-based “beef” is likely to have convinced industry leaders that plant-based proteins were no longer niche. Kim Kardashian and Kanye West embody America’s fast food culture What to watch out for If KFC’s Beyond fried “chicken” tests go well, the chain plans to roll out the product nationwide. If that nationwide roll-out goes well, other fast-food chains are likely to follow suit. Eventually, we may even see plant-based “chicken” sandwiches become as ubiquitous on fast-food menus as their “beef” burger counterparts. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Chef TR (@chef_tr) on Aug 27, 2019 at 1:48pm PDT The coronavirus pandemic will affect momentum. On Friday last week, KFC announced it was cancelling its “finger-lickin’ good” ad campaign. In areas particularly affected by the virus, restaurants are struggling with government restrictions and a drastic fall in traffic. 5 films and TV shows almost certain to make you turn vegan But people need to eat, and that won’t change any time soon. The popularity of delivery exploded well before the pandemic started. But the pandemic is likely to force restaurants to rely more heavily on delivery than they anticipated. It’s likely that some day, at least one major chain will release a plant-based “chicken” sandwich. Not today, maybe not tomorrow, but some day it will happen. This article originally appeared on Business Insider Want more stories like this? Sign up here . Follow STYLE on Facebook , Instagram , YouTube and Twitter . 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