Burger King rolls out meat-free Whopper as Mars debuts vegan chocolate

The plant-based Rebel Whopper contains 408 calories

The move from Burger King will see the fast-food chain offer vegan patties made by Unilever-owned Dutch brand The Vegetarian Butcher in more than 2,500 of its outlets in mainland Europe.

Burger King had previously debuted the offering, called the Rebel Whopper, in Sweden earlier this year, alongside trials of a meat-free burger made by Impossible Foods in the US. The Vegetarian Butcher’s patty is made using a mix of soy protein, wheat, herbs, spices and vegetable oil.

Burger King’s president David Shear confirmed this week that the Europe-wide roll-out of the offering was largely due to positive consumer reactions to the trials.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Shear also hinted that Burger King will explore the possibility of adding other The Vegetarian Butcher products to its offering. The brand notably makes vegan chicken burgers and nuggets, currently available to UK consumers through Waitrose & Partners.

The announcement from Burger King comes in the same week that Mars unveiled a range of vegan lines under its Galaxy brand.

The food and beverage giant will launch vegan chocolate bars in smooth orange, caramel and sea salt and caramelised hazelnut flavours on Monday (18 November). In the UK, they will be sold through Tesco and Ocado.

Burger King and Mars are just two of the corporates striving to cash in on the global trend towards plant-based diets, which has been broadly attributed to concerns around animal welfare, the climate impact of livestock and health and nutrition. KFC, for example, recently began trialling a plant-based chicken alternative, while Lewis Hamilton is debuting his own vegan fast-food chain called ‘Neat Burger’.

According to The Vegan Society, the number of people identifying as vegan in the UK has increased by 350% since 2008. Similar trajectories have been recorded in the US, where veganism has increased six-fold since 2015; Portugal, where plant-based lifestyles have quadrupled since 2008; and Hong Kong, where around one in five people now identify as ‘plant-based’.

This shift in demand for plant-based food has led to a boom in the vegan milk market, which is estimated to have grown to reach $16bn in 2018, up dramatically from $7 billion in 2010. The wider alternative proteins market is now on a similar trajectory, with Coller Capital’s FAIRR initiative estimating that the global market for alternative plant-based proteins could expand at an annual rate of 8.29% in the next three years and reach $5.2bn by 2020.

Sarah George

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