We tried Pizza Hut's new plant-based sausage pizza, and we have some thoughts

Pizza Hut is testing its first plant-based meat-topped pizza, the chain announced on Tuesday, Oct. 22. However, it won't be easy for most people to get their hands on it. The company is partnering with Kellogg to test its new Incogmeato plant-based Italian sausage exclusively at one location in Phoenix, AZ for one day only, on Oct. 23. 

Lucky for us, we were able to snag one of the limited-edition pies early to conduct a taste test and our editors had some thoughts, and somewhat surprisingly, mostly positive ones. 

Photo: Courtesy of Pizza Hut

First, what is on Pizza Hut's Incogmeato plant-based sausage pizza?

Obviously, the pizza is topped with the plant-based sausage, specifically Incogmeato by MorningStar Farms, but it's also filled with mushrooms, red onion slices, banana peppers and cheese (sorry, vegans). Officially, the chain is calling it the Garden Specialty Pizza.

Upon opening the box—a new compostable, round one the chain is also testing on Oct. 23—the pizza looked exactly like the photos, and like any other sausage-topped Pizza Hut pizza.

The Official Taste Test

The pizza tasted, well, like a sausage, mushroom, red onion and banana pepper pizza! Seriously, the Incogmeato plant-based sausage was hardly any different from the real thing, and this is coming from someone who has previously refused to try any plant-based meat items. It was chewy, crumbly and filled with all the right spices, fennel seeds included.

"It's delicious. I've had a lot of the Impossible meat fast-food items and this tastes closest to the real thing," said another editor, who's known to be our team's unofficial fast food expert.

"The plant-based sausage replacement topping is flavorful, spicy, juicy and crumbles well, similar to the real deal. Plus, it doesn't taste overly salty, like some meat substitutes I've tried in the past," another editor said.

What is Incogmeato?

Incogmeato is the Kellogg Company's newest plant-based venture slated to launch in 2020. The company announced in September 2019 that Incogmeato will be sold under its MorningStar Farms portfolio, which already sells plant-based products, but has never before sold items that are meant to look and taste like actual meat.

"Incogmeato is a new-to-the-world brand created to challenge convention on delicious plant-based food," Wendy Davidson, the Kellogg Away from Home president, said in a press release.

The new line of soy-based chicken tenders, nuggets and burgers will directly compete with the popular Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods brands, which have been testing products with fast food chains like Burger King, KFC, McDonald's and Dunkin' in past months. Pizza Hut is the first brand to partner with Incogmeato. 

Try the pizza yourself

If you're in the Phoenix area on Oct. 23, stop into Pizza Hut at 3602 E. Thomas Road starting at 11 a.m. to be amongst the first to try the new plant-based pizza topping. The pizza will be available only while supplies last and will be sold in-store only for $10. All proceeds from the sale of the Garden Specialty Pizza and new, round pizza box will be donated to Arizona Forward, a Phoenix-based sustainability organization.

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6 out-of-control fast-food menu launches
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6 out-of-control fast-food menu launches

McDonald's Teenie Beanie Baby Happy Meals

Year: 1997

Chaos: Significant, with collectors showing up and demanding Beanie Babies as soon as a new Happy Meal launched

New Yorker/New York Times coverage: None, but we have Wall Street Journal with "Teenie Beanie Babies Generate Big Buzz, Thrilling McDonald's." Someone who worked at McDonald's during the Beanie Baby boom reminded me of the frenzy that accompanied Teenie Beanie Baby drops when I was sought suggestions for out-of-control menu item launches on Twitter.

Happy Meals, accompanied by limited-time Teenie Beanie Babies, would swiftly sell out as Beanie Baby fanatics rushed to the chain at 10:30 am, when McDonald's began selling lunch. The partnership between McDonald's and Beanie Babies continued until the Beanie bubble burst around the turn of the millennium. 

Popeyes' Chicken Sandwich

Year: 2019

Chaos: Workers were being threatened by hungry customers as chicken sandwiches sold out

New Yorker/New York Times coverage: The New Yorker's Helen Rosner proclaimed: "Popeyes Chicken Sandwich Is Here to Save America."

By far the biggest menu item launch of 2019, Popeyes chicken sandwich exploded on the scene thanks to a Twitter battle with Chick-fil-A. The chain's social media war for the title of best chicken sandwich kicked off endless debate — and sent thousands of people to Popeyes. 

Workers were exhausted and ready to quit, as restaurants quickly ran out of sandwiches. Supply which was supposed to last two months sold out in just two weeks. 

KFC's Double Down

Year: 2010

Chaos: Significant, though the buzz surpassed sales

New Yorker/New York Times coverage: The Times' food critic Sam Sifton reviewed the menu item, stalked by the "geek paparazzi" at Eater. His verdict: "a slimy and unnaturally moist thing, with flavor ginned up in a lab." America lost its mind when KFC rolled out a menu item that sandwiches cheese and bacon between two pieces of fried chicken.  "This is deep-fried madness," Colbert Report host Stephen Colbert said of the sandwich when it launched. "This is breaded insanity. It is a sandwich that lacks all sandwich-ness. It's like an edible Hieronymus Bosch painting wrapped in a paper straitjacket. If a sandwich has no buns, can it truly be called a sandwich?"

Starbucks' Unicorn Frappuccino

Year: 2017

Chaos: A few days of horror

New Yorker/New York Times coverage: 'Unicorn Food' Is Colorful, Sparkly and Everywhere" at The Times

The Unicorn Frappuccino was one of the first major made-for-Instagram menu items to break into the mainstream. To this day, Starbucks executives say it was the "most viral" drink launch of all time. 

The color-changing Frappuccino, which was only supposed to be available for four days, was also a nightmare for workers to make.

Fortunately, most stores sold out in just a day or two.  "We ran out of unicorn frappuccino ingredients after the first day....we sold 508 unicorn f----- frappuccinos in ONE F------ DAY!" one barista wrote.

McDonald's Szechuan Sauce

Year: 2017

Chaos: People were rioting in parking lots

New Yorker/New York Times coverage: Things got so bad, The Times had to write up the outrage. Fans of the cartoon "Rick and Morty" spent most of 2017 trying to force McDonald's to bring back Szechuan McNugget sauce.

When McDonald's obliged, with a "really, really limited" rollout of the sauce at a handful of locations, customers were furious at the limited supply.

In Wellington, Florida, police were called to one location.

In New York City, crowds of angry customers formed.  McDonald's eventually brought the sauce back to all locations.

But, when customers finally had a chance to try the sauce, many were disappointed that it didn't live up to the hype. 

Taco Bell's Doritos Locos Taco

Year: 2012

Chaos: Mitigated by the 15,000 extra workers 

New Yorker/New York Times coverage: The Times is on it: Looks Like a Taco, Tastes Like a Chip

The Doritos Locos Taco was so successful it essentially fueled Taco Bell's turnaround when it launched in 2012.  The chain sold more than a billion Doritos Locos Tacos in the first year, hiring an estimated 15,000 workers to keep up with demand. "The idea sounds really simple, but it has to deliver on two fronts: the classic Taco Bell taste and the distinctive Doritos experience," Taco Bell product developer Steven Gomez told Business Insider. "Unlike a tortilla chip, taco shells can't break, and have to properly hold the taco ingredients."

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