Burger King thinks a vegan burger has a shot at popularity on its menu

Another option.
Another option.
Image: REUTERS / Joe Skipper
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An American fast-food chain that made a name for itself selling beef is considering throwing its marketing heft behind a new vegan option.

Burger King is flirting with the idea of sticking a plant-based item front-and-center on its menu, reports Bloomberg. The 65-year-old chain is testing the Impossible Burger in 59 of its restaurants in and around St. Louis, Missouri. Burger King has just under 18,000 locations in about 100 countries. Most of them are in the US.

That the chain is testing the Impossible Burger at all is indicative of the increasing number of people who are turning to plant-based burgers as an alternative to the kind that comes from cows.

Burger King already offers a few vegetarian items on its menu, including basic veggie patties that are made by MorningStar Farms. What’s interesting about the addition of the Impossible Foods burger is that, unlike the veggie patties, it truly seeks to mimic the appearance, taste, and texture of meat.

These plant-based, high-tech burgers aren’t just meant to appease vegetarians. Rather, they are intended to reach an omnivorous general public interested in “alternative proteins.” Yes, that’s the language massive food companies use to talk about this subject, and Burger King isn’t the first restaurant chain to embrace it. White Castle added the Impossible Burger to its menu last year. Many mainstream grocery chains now stock the plant-based Beyond Meat burger—Impossible Foods’ chief competitor—in actual meat cases. And executives at Tyson Foods, the largest meat producer in America, have taken to describing Tyson as a “protein company” instead of a meat company. (It’s throwing its money behind the trend, too, investing in Beyond Meat as well as cell-cultured meat company Memphis Meats.)

“It’s hot everywhere,” Tyson’s former CEO Tom Hayes told Fox Business in March 2017. “People want protein. So whether it’s animal-based protein or plant-based protein, they have an appetite for it. Plant-based protein is growing almost, at this point, a little faster than animal-based, so I think the migration may continue in that direction.”

And now, two years later, Burger King’s decision to test the viability of the Impossible Foods burger on its fast-food menu is yet another example of how the trend is catching on. If the menu items finds success with Burger King customers, it will a be a clarion signal that the market for plant-based protein has arrived, with plenty of room to grow.