Can Subway’s new meatless meatball sub put it back in the game?

Subway announced on Wednesday that it would begin selling meatless “meatball” sandwiches made from plant-based Beyond Meat next month. The move comes as the fast food chain attempts to lure back customers amid struggling sales.

The company closed 1,100 locations in 2018 and has seen lower overall traffic in recent years. The new sandwich could help bring in people interested in having a vegetarian version of Subway’s iconic Meatball Marinara sub.

The Beyond Meat sub is only a test right now: it will be available for a limited time only at 685 Subway restaurants in the U.S. and Canada. We’ve reached out to Subway for more details and will update this story if we hear back.

“Our guests want to feel good about what they eat and they also want to indulge in new flavors,” said Len Van Popering, the Chief Brand and Innovation Officer at Subway, in a press release. “With our new plant-based Beyond Meatball Marinara sub, we are giving them the best of both worlds. And, we are particularly excited about debuting the co-developed product that can’t be found anywhere else.” 

The Beyond Meatball Marinara have the same ingredients as a regular meatball sub (marinara sauce, Provolone cheese, and grated parmesan cheese on toasted bread), except that the meatballs are made from Beyond Beef. These meatballs have no GMOs, soy, or gluten, and the sandwich contains 20 grams of plant protein. 

Meat-like meat replacements have gained in popularity in recent years as more Americans are turning plant-based, vegan, and vegetarian diets. Subway isn’t alone in offering more meat alternatives — Carl’s Jr., Dunkin’ Donuts and Del Taco all serve Beyond Meat products. 

The Impossible Burger, made from Impossible Foods, will be served at select Burger Kings starting Aug. 9. White Castle also offers a meat-free burger — the Impossible Slider — and Red Robin is the largest restaurant chain in the country to carry the Impossible Burger. 

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) earlier this year, Digital Trends gave the Impossible Burger our Top Tech of CES award. Plant-based burgers like the Impossible Burger or Beyond Burger strive to look, smell, and taste like meat, but are made from plant-derived compounds. 

The veggie burger has come a long way from black bean burgers or portobello burgers. Consumers are increasingly trying plant-based substitutes as a more eco-friendly option as more information is revealed about the meat industry’s impact on the environment. According to research conducted by Midan Marketing and MeatingPlace, 70% of meat-eaters substituted a non-meat protein in a meal at least once a week.