Panda Express Rolls Out Vegan Orange Chicken From Beyond Meat
Panda Express is about to revolutionize plant-based fast food options, announcing that the quick-service American Chinese restaurant will partner with Beyond Meat to debut the Beyond The Original Orange Chicken. The new plant-based entree will initially roll out in New York City and Los Angeles locations beginning on July 26th.
The vegan version of the iconic dish will showcase the familiar flavors and texture with plant-based breading, sauce, and protein. The company’s orange chicken dish first appeared on the menu in 1987, but with growing plant-based demand Panda Express decided to provide the vegan alternative. The move follows years of petitioning and consumer pressure that critiqued the fast-food chain’s lack of plant-based options for decades.
“As the creator of The Original Orange Chicken, Panda has significant brand equity in this staple American Chinese comfort food,” Executive Director of Culinary Innovation at Panda Express and Chef Jimmy Wang told VegNews. “We co-developed Beyond the Original Orange Chicken with Beyond Meat t capture the irresistibly crunchy texture of our signature entree, while still giving our guests a plant-based option of the dish they know and love. This partnership perfectly brings together Panda’s expertise in American Chinese recipes and Beyond Meat’s category-leading plant-based protein knowledge to create a fresh new take on a classic favorite.”
Panda Express is working to expand its plant-based offerings after facing criticism for its small plant-based selection before 2019. However, the company decided to redesign its menu to better cater to plant-based customers, removing unnecessary ingredients like chicken broth and animal-based seasoning. The company teamed up with Vegan Outreach to reevaluate its menu, resulting in the fast-food chain’s Eggplant Tofu.
Currently, the Beyond the Original Orange Chicken will only be available at limited locations for its initial debut. The company claims that the trial locations will better help the fast-food restaurant chain learn to accommodate the new vegan item.
Similarly, Beyond Meat partnered with KFC in 2019 at an Atlanta location to test the vegan chicken product. The Beyond Fried Chicken sold out in less than five hours, leading Beyond Meat to expand its test locations to more than 70 locations across Southern California, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Likewise, Panda Express aims to gauge its plant-based items’ success then move towards a national launch.
“With this regional launch, we’re gathering insights and learning how we can improve the guest experience with this brand new product for a wider future rollout,” Wang said. “We are confident that people will love the new menu item.”
Beyond Meat also recently launched its Beyond Chicken Tender nationwide, pioneering an era of plant-based chicken products. The company announced that it partnered with 400 restaurants across the United States and Canada. The company spent most of the last decade developing the new plant-based chicken product to mirror the taste and texture of conventional animal-based chicken. The pea protein and faba bean-based chicken will make its appearance throughout this month, and eventually will make its fast-food debut.
“We’re innovating the poultry market with the new Beyond Chicken Tenders - the result of our tireless pursuit for excellence and growth at Beyond Meat,” Dariush Ajami, Chief Innovation Officer at Beyond Meat, said. “As with all our products, Beyond Chicken Tenders offer delicious taste and an exceptional culinary experience, along with strong nutritional benefits. Innovation is at the heart of Beyond Meat, and Beyond Chicken Tenders are the latest example of our mission to create groundbreaking, tasty options that are better for people and for our planet.”