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Pedestrians walk past a downtown Toronto Starbucks Coffee location on May 31, 2018.

Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press

Starbucks Corp. is dipping a toe in the faux-meat trend, making it the second fast-food giant in the past six months to tap Canada as a launch market for so-called “plant-based” meat alternatives.

On March 3, the coffee chain will launch an egg and cheddar breakfast sandwich with a patty made by Beyond Meat Inc. Canada is the first market in the world for Starbucks to launch a Beyond Meat product, or any breakfast sandwich incorporating imitation meat.

In September, quick-service giant McDonald’s Corp. tapped Southwestern Ontario as a test market for a new Beyond Meat burger, as it mulls whether to launch such products in more restaurants globally. Last month, McDonald’s said it would expand the test to more restaurants in the region and extend the three-month trial to six months. Beyond Meat’s stock rose more than 11 per cent on the day of the initial announcement in September: McDonald’s represents a significant potential client with approximately 38,000 restaurants in 100 countries. Starbucks has roughly 31,000 locations worldwide and 1,587 in Canada; the majority of stores nationwide will offer the new sandwich.

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Unlike the trial McDonald’s roll-out, the sandwich will be a “core menu item” for Starbucks Canada, and the coffee chain does not view Canada as a test market to consider a global launch of this Beyond Meat product, a representative for Starbucks said in an e-mail.

The California-based Beyond Meat also sells its patties at A&W restaurants and a faux-meatball sub at Subway. But it has had hiccups in the fast-food sector as well. Less than a month ago, Starbucks competitor Tim Hortons axed Beyond Meat breakfast sandwiches from its menu after just seven months, saying that customers preferred the meat patties.

Last month, Starbucks announced a global initiative to cut its carbon emissions and waste in half by 2030, which will require major changes across its operations – including to its menu. The company said at the time that it would “expand plant-based options” as part of the commitment.

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