8 min read
CYL - Feb 26, 2024

Whose Mentions Overtook McDonald's in the Plant-Based Game?

In the past year, McDonald's had an ambitious plan to expand its global presence by opening 1,900 new locations in 2023. However, it's noteworthy to recognize the vast scale of McDonald's existing footprint worldwide, as the chain currently boasts over 40,275 restaurants across various locations globally. As the biggest fast-food chain in the world, you might think it is the leading brand for plant-based mentions. However, that is not the case.

Fast Food Mentions Worldwide

As of 2023, the global fast-food industry boasts a staggering 531,706 operational restaurants. A noteworthy trend emerges as 65% of the global population actively engages in fast-food consumption at least once a week. Remarkably, individuals allocate an average of $148 per month toward their fast-food expenditures, emphasizing the widespread and consistent patronage of this culinary sector globally. 


Evolution of mentions of fast food-related mentions from Jan 2022 to October 2023


In Digimind's latest study, we examine the frequency of fast food mentions displays from January 2022 to October 2023. Notably, April 2022 emerges as a standout month, witnessing a remarkable 74% surge compared to the previous month. Similarly, October 2022 experienced a notable 28% increase from September 2022. Conversely, June 2022 marked a significant downturn with a 47% decrease from the preceding month, indicating a fluctuation in public interest or engagement.


New Trends in Fast Food

When you think about fast food options, what do you think about? 




One might conjure images of iconic items like crispy fried chicken nuggets, juicy cheeseburgers, and an array of other classic offerings. These staples have become synonymous with the fast-food experience, ingrained in popular culture and culinary expectations.




However, there has been a notable evolution in the fast-food landscape as an increasing number of brands pivot towards the plant-based sector, especially in leading fast-food chains. 


Traditional meat production often involves practices that raise ethical concerns, such as factory farming, confinement systems, and the use of antibiotics. The plant-based movement, including alternatives like Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger, aims to address these concerns by offering cruelty-free options that do not involve the direct exploitation or harm of animals.

The integration of plant-based alternatives in the fast-food industry reflects a broader societal concern for animal welfare. As consumers become more conscious of the ethical implications of their food choices, the shift towards plant-based options is seen as a positive step in aligning with values centered on compassion for animals.

Fast-food brands recognizing and responding to these concerns by incorporating plant-based options into their menus not only cater to the evolving tastes of their customers but also actively contribute to a more compassionate and ethically driven approach to food consumption. This alignment with animal welfare considerations is likely to continue shaping consumer preferences and influencing the trajectory of the fast-food industry.



Popular Alternatives in Fast Food


Image by: Green Queen

Noteworthy plant-based alternatives gaining popularity include various plant-based milk options such as almond milk, soy milk, and oat milk, each offering a lactose-free and sustainable alternative to traditional dairy. These alternatives have become staples in many fast-food establishments, catering to the rising demand for plant-based choices.


Image by: The Sun

Similarly, plant-based meat alternatives have emerged as a prominent trend, with products like Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger making significant strides in the market. These alternatives mimic the taste and texture of traditional meat but are crafted entirely from plant-based ingredients, appealing to both vegetarians and flexitarians seeking more sustainable and ethical dining options.

Digimind's Findings

In Digimind's most recent report, a surprising turn of events unfolds as McDonald's, despite holding the number one spot in regular fast food mentions, unexpectedly slips to second place, losing to Starbucks when it comes to plant-based offerings. 

Social listening data provides valuable insights into the sentiments and discussions surrounding a particular topic, in this case, meal kits. The decline in mentions suggests a shift in consumer interest or engagement with meal kit services. This shift could be influenced by various factors, including changing consumer preferences, evolving market dynamics, or external economic factors.

To view the comprehensive list of over 11 brands and rankings, download the report now!



Next Steps

Onclusive Social (formerly Digimind)'s social listening capabilities offer invaluable insights into the dynamic interplay between fast food and the trend of plant-based options within the culinary landscape.


By meticulously tracking social media discussions, Onclusive Social enables businesses, particularly those in the fast-food industry, to gain a nuanced understanding of evolving consumer sentiments. This tool allows brands to decipher the real-time pulse of public reactions to traditional fast-food offerings and the growing demand for plant-based alternatives. Whether it's gauging reactions to new menu items, understanding preferences, or monitoring the competitive landscape, Digimind provides a comprehensive lens.


This data-driven approach allows fast-food brands to contextualize their strategies, aligning with changing consumer tastes, and stay ahead in a market that is witnessing a paradigm shift towards more sustainable and plant-centric choices.

New call-to-action


Written by CYL