Taco Bell Targets Flexitarians with Plant-Based Partnership

Harvey Rañola |
 02/26/21 |
4 min read

taco bell flexitarian

The era of the flexitarian has arrived. Say goodbye to meat centered quick-serve restaurants and hello to plant-based chimichangas from Taco Bell. Vegan curiosity is the wave of the future and has grown steadily throughout the pandemic as more consumers are becoming flexitarians, limiting their meat intake and seeking healthier, plant based options.

Taco Bell, like others before them, is answering their call – and consumers are reacting positively. We see 95% Net Sentiment (on a scale from -100 to 100):


Summary metrics showing mentions and sentiment toward Taco Bell’s plant-based offering.

We’ll explore this and more, including;

  • Consumers shifting tastes and lifestyles
  • Brands providing healthier options
  • Food trends as a part of a larger conversation

Here are some stats about this lifestyle:

  • 36% of Americans identify as a Flexitarian.
  • Meat sales were expected to decline in 2020 by 3% due to the pandemic
  • Beyond Meat stock surged 65% in 2020

importance of trend analytics

Flexitarians Taking Food Choices Somewhat Seriously

Thirty-six percent of Americans identify as a flexitarian. What is a flexitarian? It’s a lifestyle where you can adjust your meat intake to suit your needs, or rather tastes. It’s not about eliminating but rather finding food alternatives that give you equal flavor and enjoyment. Additionally, this emerging trend was accelerated by COVID-19. Meat consumption was expected to decline 3% globally in 2020 as a result of pandemic-related factors, as people looked for healthier options while cooped up in their homes.

Using social media monitoring to capture these emerging trends as they happen can be the difference between standing out or standing aside.

Below, Quid Social gives us the skinny around plant-based talk, with the added intel of source. Not only do you need to know how people are talking about a segment but where they are having these discussions.


Quid Social showing plant-based conversations by source type.

And not only are consumers ready for this flexible way of enjoying food and sharing their thoughts across the social web, but brands such as Taco Bell are hearing it and stepping up to the “plate” to deliver.

Brands Building Better Options

Beyond Meat stock surged 65% in 2020 as consumers and brands provided tailwind for this plant-based option to speed ahead. And Taco Bell is the latest to join in. After they removed potatoes (a much-desired vegan option) from their menu, consumers began to talk.

And being the social listening savvy brand that Taco Bell is, they’re not only bringing potatoes back, but are adding in Beyond Meat as well. Consumers approve:


Other brands have reacted similarly. Pizza Hut recently added beyond beef and dairy free cheese, as we see bubble up in this user generated content (UGC) from micro influencer @Vegansmurfs:


And this all ties into another emerging trend, of course – sustainability and the connection between plant-based eating and ecologically minded living.

Plant-based Food of the Future 

There’s growing evidence that plant-based eating and sustainability are linked and help to reduce emissions, and the most carbon intensive food production is beef. For example, producing 1 kg of beef creates around 60 kg of CO2. When you compare that to the production of soy at less than 0.9 kg – that’s a big difference. And consumers today are out to make a difference, with 51% of them  saying the environment is a major reason for purchasing sustainable products or supporting sustainable brands.

This is where analytics for social media comes in handy. By using social media monitoring we can see how huge both health and sustainability are for Flexitarians. We filtered our plant-based social conversation to locate topics of Health, Sustainability and Gas Emissions. We then highlighted these against the backdrop of all conversations. As you can see, these topics are present in nearly every segment on the map.


Quid conversational clusters around plant-based trends, sorted by tags.

It’s not about just health, but how it and sustainability work together for a greater good. Taking advantage of audience analysis, brands can explore the many articles, blogs and social media posts these nodes represent.

And this consumer buyer behavior ties in with the consistent applications for Plant Based Foods patents, spanning a wide variety of concerns:


Variety of plant-based patents that entities have applied for since 2012.

Beyond what’s put in our bodies or on it, everything else points to a more sustainable conversation from plant-based filtration to renewable energy patents. We’re also able to see valuable information such as whether or not the patent has been granted, along with who applied, when they applied and where.

In sum, the future is green and being championed by flexitarians around the world. And it’s not just about what we eat, but rather about a larger ongoing conversation around saving the earth and getting healthy while doing it.

Your brand needs to keep pace with these conversations, and perhaps become a first mover in the next plant-based emerging trend. Reach out for a demo and get ready to make an impact that will sustain your brand in the coming years.

importance of trend analytics

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