Now playing
02:16
Meatless burgers in hot demand
New KFC chicken sandwich
New KFC chicken sandwich
PHOTO: KFC
Now playing
01:06
These are the chicken sandwich war's newest contenders
Now playing
01:16
See Burger King's retro new logo and uniforms
Now playing
03:39
This vegan restaurant is actually opening locations during the pandemic
PHOTO: Stew Leonard's
Now playing
04:46
Stew Leonard's CEO: We have plenty of food
PHOTO: Lifetime
Now playing
02:34
Mario Lopez stars as KFC's Col. Sanders in steamy movie
Now playing
02:48
Goldbelly is shipping food from iconic restaurants nationwide
Now playing
02:46
Why the world's largest ice cream company is betting on home delivery
screengrab mcplant
screengrab mcplant
PHOTO: Getty Images
Now playing
02:05
Internet mocks McDonald's new meatless burger
bacon mask 2
bacon mask 2
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
02:00
This company is giving away bacon-scented face masks
Now playing
02:19
People are brewing fancier coffee at home. That's good for this company
Patrick Stewart and Mark Hamill, two legendary cultural icons, come together to settle the greatest debate of all time - what
Patrick Stewart and Mark Hamill, two legendary cultural icons, come together to settle the greatest debate of all time - what's for dinner?
PHOTO: Uber Eats/Youtube
Now playing
01:00
Uber Eats' new ad pits Luke Skywalker against Capt. Picard
PHOTO: Milk Processor Education Program
Now playing
01:05
Watch the new 'Got Milk?' ads
Now playing
02:45
This small business stood for a century, but Covid-19 closed it in months
A man wears a mask as he walks past a McDonald
A man wears a mask as he walks past a McDonald's fast food restaurant during the COVID-19 pandemic, in Los Angeles, California, April 6, 2020. (Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
01:43
McDonald's sales plummet in dismal quarter
(CNN Business) —  

The plant-based protein trend is so powerful, even Kentucky Fried Chicken is taking an interest.

So far, meatless meat has been used by fast-food chains as an alternative to beef or sausage. But if the craze ever extends to plant-based chicken, KFC plans to test out a menu item featuring the protein.

“We don’t see chicken as the big trend right now,” Kevin Hochman, KFC’s US president, told CNN Business. “But we are definitely looking at it in earnest and meeting with the big suppliers of alternative proteins to understand the market and where it’s headed.”

Consumers are increasingly interested in eating plant-based protein for health and environmental reasons, and the market for meat-like protein is growing. By 2023, the US meat-substitute retail market could reach $2.5 billion, compared to $1.4 billion last year, according to the research firm Euromonitor International. Globally, the market could grow from about $18.7 billion in 2018 to $23 billion in 2023, according to Euromonitor International.

If plant-based poultry gets popular, KFC would test it out in its restaurants.
If plant-based poultry gets popular, KFC would test it out in its restaurants.
PHOTO: Moses Robinson/Getty Images

If plant-based poultry “gets more and more mainstream and we think it’s right for our customers, we certainly would test it,” Hochman said.

In a statement, a spokesperson said that “KFC US has no plans to test plant-based meat, or meat alternatives at this time,” but added that “we’re aware it’s a growing industry, and we are watching this trend closely to learn as much as we can.”

Burger chains in particular have jumped on the fake meat trend. Burger King is rolling out a meatless version of the Whopper nationwide this year. The meat-free Whopper patties are made by Impossible Foods. Others, like Bareburger, White Castle and Carl’s Jr., also sell meatless burgers.

Burger sellers aren’t the only ones adding plant-based protein to their menus. Mexican fast food-chain Qdoba uses Impossible protein, and Little Caesars recently announced that it is testing an Impossible pizza. In Canada, Tim Horton’s is testing out three breakfast sandwiches with plant-based sausages made by Beyond Meat (BYND), Impossible’s competitor.

Investors are seizing on the trend. Beyond Meat, which went public this month, is trading at four times its IPO price of $25 on sustained interest and demand for plant-based protein products.

Although some fast food and quick-service restaurants are moving quickly, others, like KFC, are remaining cautious.

McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook told CNBC on Wednesday that the company is still “exploring” the trend. “We’re trying to understand it better,” he said. “We’re keeping a close eye on it,” noting that he doesn’t think interest in plant-based protein is just a fad.