Last year, McDonald’s finally announced they would get in on the plant-based game, piloting a burger dubbed the P.L.T. in the Canadian market. Now, a year later, McDonald’s says that their plant-based burger will finally see the light come 2021, albeit in the form of a more aggressive trial on a market-by-market basis. Plus, it could even extend itself to other parts of the menu via chicken substitutes and breakfast offerings.
However, the P.L.T. is no more, and the Golden Arches are now calling their meatless patty the McPlant. Despite some general discontent over the naming of the plant-based sandwich on social media, this is pretty on-brand for McDonald’s.
Short of an Ontario sneak preview via road trip, there’s no way for us to tell you how this burger tastes or if it does an adequate job of replicating the flavor of lukewarm-to-freezing Quarter Pounder with a slab of plasticized American cheese on it. It probably tastes a lot like the other plant-based burgers you’ve had, but maybe a tad worse?
What we can tell you, however, is that everything about the rollout of the McPlant feels lazy, from the threadbare design of the potential packaging right down to the branding. Just taking a glance at the hypothetical McPlant container, it looks like an oil company unveiling a new, greener logo in the name of a cheap PR stunt after they spilled millions of gallons of crude into the ocean. What we get is an emerging sprout from a flat, solid block of bland grass and a cold white background with the name of the sandwich vomited at the top as if to say, “Hi, we’re the McSalad Shakers of the 2020s.”
No one expects McDonald’s to rock the boat when it comes to design, and they’re pretty conservative when it comes to their branding playbook. Impossible and Beyond Meat incorporate green tones in their packaging as well, but they have identities that are more dynamic and even a little inspiring. Innovation is at the heart of both brands, whether it’s inspiring a revolution for consumers to eat less meat or playing up the tech used to engineer their products.
At least with the Impossible Whopper, you get the impression that someone at Burger King at least tried. McDonald’s treats the new potential offering as an afterthought, which doesn’t bode well for the long-term success of the McPlant as the visual identity downplays the plant-based food revolution that’s taking place with a trivial fart of uninspiring, tepid design.
News of the McPlant led to shares of Beyond Meat to plummet, as confusion swirled around whether or not McDonald’s was still partnering with the faux meatmaker. A spokesperson from Beyond meat said that there is, in fact, an ongoing partnership between the two entities, and shares rose once again (proving that the stock market is nothing more than rich-folk feelings of abandonment with a twist of crushingly low self-esteem, and has nothing whatsoever to do with the economy).
What’s more, it further indicates that everything about the haphazard launch feels undercooked and that maybe the folks upstairs should start listening to creative.