KFC is to deviate from Colonel Sanders’ original “finger lickin’ good” recipe by offering nuggets made from plants, rather than its traditional chickens. The fast-food chain said it was working with the rapidly growing meat substitute company Beyond Meat on a one-day trial that, if successful, would lead to plant-based chicken nuggets and wings appearing on its US menu. KFC, which is owned by the New York Stock Exchange-listed Yum! Brands, has more than 23,000 restaurants around the world. The product is called Beyond Fried Chicken and comes with the tagline “a Kentucky fried miracle”. The nuggets are presented in green rather than KFC’s trademark red containers and carry the promise that what is inside is “still finger lickin’ good”. The limited trial involves giving out free samples to customers. Kevin Hochman, the chief concept officer of KFC US, claimed that customers would “find it difficult to tell” the nuggets were plant-based. Shares in Beyond Meat jumped 4 per cent after the trial was announced, with Yum! rising by 1.3 per cent. KFC is the latest in a long line of food companies that are trying to appeal to the growing number of people following a flexitarian – where meat is eaten only occasionally – or completely plant-based diet. Beyond Meat’s main competitor, Impossible Foods, has, for example, introduced a meatless Whopper at Burger King. KFC unveils chicken mooncakes at new Hong Kong outlet among other new dishes The menus are changing in Britain too as veganism spreads rapidly there, with the number increasing from 150,000 in 2014 to 600,000 in 2018, according to the Vegan Society. Manufacturers, supermarkets and restaurants are scrambling to cash in on the expanding market, with the consumer goods giant Unilever buying up the meat substitute company Vegetarian Butcher and Sainsbury’s opening a pop-up meat-free butcher to encourage Britons to try plant-based foods. Last week the Greggs bakery chain said it was working on vegan versions of all its bestselling products, from steak bakes to pasties and doughnuts, after the success of its vegan sausage roll. The strength of consumer demand for meat alternatives has encouraged investors to pour money into companies that look likely to prosper. Beyond Meat’s shares have rocketed since its flotation in May. Having debuted at US$25, they are now changing hands for more than US$150, with the company valued at close to US$9 billion. Based in El Segundo, California, Beyond Meat was founded a decade ago by the technology entrepreneur Ethan Brown and its early backers included Bill Gates and Leonardo DiCaprio. Its first product was chicken-free chicken strips. which were later discontinued. Its website says it has been working on a “better, tastier version”. It is not clear if this new recipe is the basis for the KFC products. More recently, Beyond Meat’s products, which are made from pea protein, have been pitched as alternatives to burgers, sausages and mince; last year British supermarkets started selling its burger that “bleeds” beetroot juice.