New York (AFP)

Fast food giant McDonald's disappointed the financial markets on Tuesday, citing weaker-than-expected sales growth in the United States, where it seems to be paying dearly behind trendy vegetarian burgers.

Big Mac maker slipped 1.8% to $ 1.61 billion from third-quarter net profit, while revenue grew only 1.14% at $ 5.43 billion. It is below the 5.49 billion discounted.

This performance caused a decline of more than 3% of the stock in the first trades on Wall Street.

The indicator for taking the pulse of activity and profitability disappointed in the United States: sales on a like-for-like basis (in number of stores) rose by only 4.8% in the United States, far from the 5.17% growth expected by analysts. This suggests that McDonald's is losing market share to its competitors (Burger King and Yum Brands).

For months now, they have been offering vegetarian burgers and nuggets, which are becoming more and more popular with consumers.

This is not the case for McDonald's, which has been testing only since the end of September, in partnership with the very popular vegan start-up Beyond Meat, a meatless cheeseburger in Canada.

The restaurant chain had already tested the market by marketing a vegetarian burger in Germany developed in collaboration with Nestlé.

Burger King was the first large-scale fast-food chain to launch this segment, offering since April a meatless but comparable version of its iconic "Whopper".

KFC, a few months later, started to sell, together with Beyond Meat, chicken wings and vegetable protein nuggets.

- 100 billion -

Alternatives to meat are not new. But thanks to new techniques, start-ups like Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat have boosted the market by offering products closer to the taste, texture and even the juice of the meat.

Their growth coincides with the interest of consumers, especially in the United States, for a healthier diet including more vegetables.

Giants of the agribusiness have rushed into the niche, like the Swiss group Nestle which, after the "Incredible Burger" in Europe, just launched in supermarkets in the United States his "Awesome Burger".

The plant-based "meat" market could easily reach $ 100 billion in 15 years, according to JPMorgan's estimates.

In the third quarter, however, McDonald's was able to count on French and UK consumers, which allowed global same-store sales to increase by 5.9%.

The chain, which has 38,000 restaurants, of which 93% are franchised, distributed in a hundred countries, also invests heavily in technology, delivery of hamburgers at home or at the office (McDelivery) and in orders directly from the vehicle ( McDrive) to capture a clientele who is reluctant to visit his restaurants.

It has multiplied partnerships with UberEats, DoorDash and GrubHub.

The "McDelivery" service is offered in some 20,000 McDonald's restaurants across the globe, claims the chain, which also invests in artificial intelligence.

The latter is supposed to allow him to extend the service McDrive, which has a dedicated staff and a cash desk to save time when ordering.

Meanwhile, McDonald's had to write asset-related impairment charges in India, including India Delhi Market.

© 2019 AFP