Dunkin’ Donuts began marketing its first vegan breakfast sandwich to consumers in the New York City area on July 24, with plans to expand the offering nationally in the future.
Dunkin’s decision to launch a spinoff of their popular traditional Sausage, Egg & Cheese options began with an online petition launched by Lana Weidgenant, a junior at Hopkins majoring in Public Health Studies.
Weidgenant initiated a petition on the social change website Change.org a little more than a month earlier. The petition called on Dunkin’ to follow in the footsteps of Canadian coffee and doughnut chain Tim Hortons by introducing Beyond Meat sausage options to their breakfast sandwich line. Beyond Meat produces plant-based burgers that attempt to replicate the taste and appearance of real meat.
In an interview with The News-Letter, Weidgenant commented on her efforts to make vegan food options more accessible. Weidgenant chose to go vegan upon arriving at Hopkins and got involved with Compassion, Awareness, and Responsible Eating for Farm Animals (CARE), a student group at Hopkins that seeks to promote veganism. Weidgenant is now co-president of CARE.
“Once I came to college — I’ve always been an animal lover — I wanted to put those morals into practice as much as I could,” she said.
To this end, she works with an organization that helps to promote vegan options to restaurants all over.
“[The idea] mostly came from my work with a non-profit organization called Plant Dining Partnership; I’m an advisory board member,” she said. “The goal is to increase the accessibility of plant-based options. So a major way that we plan to do that is by working through all forms of food service establishments and... talking to local community locations.”
The petition, for Weidgenant, was a way to reach a broader audience than the local partnerships for which Plant Dining Partnerships usually strives.
“It was the idea that if we could get a major chain to add a plant-based option, that would... make such a big difference for plant-based accessibility,” Weidgenant said.
She added that part of the initiative to convince businesses to offer vegan options had to involve convincing them that such options would also have a positive effect on their ability to generate revenues and go beyond helping the environment.
“It’s telling them that there’s so much demand in 2019, how it’s not only a good option for the environment and for the health of their community, but it’s also very profitable and it’s a very smart business decision,” Weidgenant said.
Her petition referenced the growing national interest in plant-based alternatives to meat as well as the potential for Dunkin’ to profit from Beyond Meat’s financial success in recent months.
“The Beyond Sausage would also bring great financial gains to Dunkin’ Donuts. Beyond Meat shares have soared over 258 percent from their original IPO price and were worth 1.5 billion dollars in their market debut,” Weidgenant wrote in the petition.
Weidgenant lauded Dunkin’ for moving toward offering more plant-based options, but mentioned that the chain could go further.
“Dunkin’ has taken a step in the right direction and I think this is going to be enormous for flexitarians and for the majority of the population that goes to Dunkin’ who would otherwise get a beef patty, now that they have this new, exciting option,” Weidgenant said.
Weidgenant also described more opportunities for Dunkin’ to expand their plant-based options.
“For example, Tim Horton’s... is now adding Just Egg, which is a vegan egg, to their breakfast sandwiches,” she added.
In the few weeks since Dunkin’ acceded to her petition and to its thousands of signatories, Weidgenant has launched two more petitions — one to Starbucks and one to Wendy’s — asking both chains to begin offering Beyond Meat as an option.
On campus, Weidgenant is planning to launch a new initiative with CARE this year. Rather than pushing for more plant-based options at the University, she aims to move CARE’s focus onto animal testing and cruelty for a new awareness-based campaign, especially given that there are already food justice organizations on campus.
“It’s still in the works, but we’re hoping to talk more about animal testing issues,” Weidgenant said. “Hopkins has dissection choice, which means you don’t have to dissect if you don’t want to, but that option isn’t really talked about to students.”