Subway Commits To More Vegan Options After Tuna Fiasco

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Image Source: Hajime NAKANO

A lot more options might hit soon the menu of Subway in the United States, the chain revealed after a controversy involving its tuna sandwiches. In January, Subway was sued to claim that Subway, the world’s largest sandwich chain with more than 40,000 locations, was selling a “mixture of various concoctions” in its popular tuna sandwiches. The plaintiffs said that the main ingredient wasn’t what it was being marketed as, but was instead, “made from anything but tuna.” 

Last month the New York Times revealed the results of lab tests following the lawsuit. It sampled five feet worth of Subway tuna sandwiches purchased from locations across Los Angeles. The analysis revealed a similar conclusion as the lawsuit.

“No amplifiable tuna DNA was present in the sample and so we obtained no amplification products from the DNA,” read the lab results. “Therefore, we cannot identify the species.” 

A spokesperson for the lab that tested the tuna told the Times that there are two conclusions. “One, it’s so heavily processed that whatever we could pull out, we couldn’t make an identification. Or we got some and there’s just nothing there that’s tuna.”  

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Image Source: Subway Site

The timing couldn’t be worst for the chain as it happens in conjunction with the Netflix release of the documentary Seaspiracy which exposed corruption and destruction tied to the global fishing industry. The film launched as consumers have already been migrating toward more meatless diet options. 

It was five years ago that Beyond and Impossible burgers made their first market appearances. They are now being sold in major restaurant chains and supermarkets across the US and the world, gaining much popularity with consumers. However, seafood options have been slower to make an intro into the meatless market. Plant-based brand Good Catch Foods is aiming to change that.

Good Catch, it’s a brand that launched its tuna in 2019 and now also offers crab cakes and fishless filets.

Last week they trolled Subway locations with food trucks branded as “Our Way” using the Subway font. The trucks served “real” tuna sandwiches outside of select Subway locations in three cities.

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“Our mission is to make seafood that’s good for the sea and all life who call it home. Large commercial fishing is one of the most destructive activities in our oceans, We can do better. We’re here to offer great tasting seafood alternatives without bycatch, mercury, or environmental damage.”

Chad Sarno, co-founder and Chief Culinary Officer at Good Catch

The trucks were not received well by Subway. The chain sent to the New York-based company a cease and desist for using the brand’s likeness on its trucks and marketing materials. The letter also addressed the demand for more vegan options. 

At the beginning of this summer, Subway announced its Eat Fresh Refresh campaign, part of what it calls a “long-term commitment” to the chain’s “continual transformation.” This includes a shake-up to its core menu, including “refreshed proteins.” However, Subway did not add new protein options to its US locations in 2021. 

Outside of the US, Subway has embraced options in several key markets. Earlier this year it launched the “T.L.C.”, short for Tastes Like Chicken, in the UK where it also launched Vegan Cheese Toasted Bites and a vegan meatball sub as well as a vegan cookie. 

Other regions are also embracing vegan options. In meat-heavy Brazil, Subway’s “Sub Veg” features and dairy-free cheese.  

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