Fast food chain KFC recently shared its plans to experiment with vegetarian version of fried chicken in the United Kingdom sometime in 2019, in order to provide healthier alternatives to the traditional high calorie menu.

“Development of the recipe is still in its very early stages, and so the options we’re exploring in our kitchen are still top secret,” KFC told Foodbeast. “Once we’ve perfected the recipe we aim to test with customers this year, and if all goes well, we hope to launch a new vegetarian option in 2019.”

The new meat-free, chicken-inspired option would reduce calories per serving by 20 percent. It also plans to introduce a number of lower calorie options, such as meals under 600 calories.

A spokesperson for the chain said, “We always look to respond to the latest changes in lifestyle and dining habits of our customers,” Forbes reported.

KFC is planning to utilize the same secret blend of 11 spices that is used to complement its regular fried chicken variety.

However, Louisville-based KFC has no immediate plans to introduce the product in the United States.

“We have no plans related to the UK’s test at this time,” KFC’s U.S. team told Foodbeast.

Restaurant consultant Aaron Allen told USA Today, “How sharply has vegetarianism increased in the U.S.? Double and triple digits. We’re talking about millions of people dramatically changing their diets. Chains will take note of that and change their menu offerings,” stating other chains are likely to follow KFC.

Meat contains a lot of protein and hence a number of popular meat-less alternatives are soy-based, which is a source of vegetable protein. Seitan, a high-protein product made of wheat gluten is another alternative. However, vegetarian chicken does not contain iron and certain vitamins.

Vegetarian chicken will be a better option for all of those who don’t eat meat as it tastes as good as the regular one, Food Crumbles reported. Most of the vegetarian chickens actually even look like chicken.

However, there is a huge price difference between the two as regular chicken is one-third the price of the vegetarian chicken for instance. For example, Dutch food manufacturer producer de Vegetarische Slager's vegetarian chicken tucks called “kipstuckjes” — made of soy — costs $4.35 for 160g, as compared to $3.66 for 370g of chicken.

Burger King has already joined the healthy food bandwagon by offering dishes such as a Morningstar veggie burger, vegan apple pie and vegan French toast sticks in the menu. Apart from Burger King, Taco Bell and Shake Shack have also been offering veggie alternatives.

Last year, Whole Foods mislabeled two kinds of curried chicken salad, which was sold in some of its stores. The salad made with a meat alternative contained actual chicken while the salad made with real chicken was labelled vegetarian chicken salad. The products were recalled when the mistake was realized. 

Ethan Brown, founder of Beyond Meat — which made the chicken substitute — said, “None of the customers apparently noticed the difference,” New York Times reported.

Due health, environmental and animal-welfare concerns, the demand for meat alternatives have increased and the taste, texture and variety of meat alternatives have improved.

Amanda Martin, resident of Tennessee, said, “I served Boca burgers to my family one night, just to see if anyone would notice a difference. … No one did. It wasn't until after dinner and I revealed my secret did they know.”