Burger King has launched a new plant-based burger in the UK – but it’s not 100% suitable for vegetarians or vegans because of the way it is cooked.
Though the Rebel Whopper is made from sustainable soy, the fast-food chain admits that the new meat-free Whopper-style alternative is cooked on Burger King’s “signature broiler”, where its beef burgers are cooked.
According to the company, this means the Rebel Whopper “has all the flame-grilled goodness Burger King fans would expect of the classic Whopper”.
It also means the new plant-based dish isn’t vegan.
Burger King has not advertised its Rebel Whopper as a vegan product. Instead the company says the dish is aimed at ‘flexitarians’ – people who primarily eat a vegetarian diet but still sometimes consume meat and fish.
Burger King marketing director Katie Evans describes the new launch as a “game changer”.
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“We wanted our first plant-based Whopper to replicate the indulgence and flame-grilled taste of the real thing as closely as possible, and we're thrilled with the result,” she says.
“We're delighted to satisfy the demand for this highly anticipated product and finally bring the Rebel to the UK.”
The soy patty, developed in partnership with The Vegetarian Butcher, which produces a range of plant-based meat alternatives, is served with tomatoes, lettuce, mayonnaise, ketchup and pickles on a seeded bun.
It is not suitable for vegetarians because it is cooked on the same grill as the restaurant's beefburgers, but it is hoped it might encourage some meat eaters to cut down on their meat consumption.
Toni Vernelli, international head of communications and marketing at Veganuary, said the Rebel Whopper would still have value to those trying to eat a more plant-based diet, despite not being fully suitable for vegans or vegetarians.
“For all of the important issues that Veganuary – and most vegans – are trying to address through their food choices it makes absolutely no difference whether the plant-based patty is cooked separately or on the same grill as the meat,” she said.
“What does make a big difference to animals and the planet is when non-vegans choose a plant-based menu option, enjoy it and then order it again.
“And that's exactly who Burger King's plant-based Whopper is aimed at, flexitarians who want to reduce their meat consumption for health or environmental reasons, or are considering going vegan.”
The launch of the Rebel Whopper in the UK follows that of the meat-free Impossible Whopper in the US last year.
Other fast-food retailers are also creating meat-free alternatives.
McDonald’s launched a trial of a new plant-based burger, dubbed the PLT, in Canada last year.
Despite being made from plant-based ingredients, the burgers are also cooked on the same grill as other meat-based products so technically can’t be classed as vegetarian.
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The increase in plant-based options is also tapping into a wider, global interest in veganism.
In the UK alone, 7% of the national population identify as vegan.
The Rebel Whopper, already available in Ireland, goes on sale to anyone in the UK with the Burger King app from today, and to everyone from Wednesday.
Additional reporting PA