The Lowdown: The Impossible Whopper

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Impossible Whopper Burger King

Related tags: Burger king, QSR, Vegan

Burger King is jumping on the meat-free bandwagon, piloting a plant-based version of its signature Whopper sandwich in the US.

So Burger King launch a meatless Whopper, and McDonald’s announce the McPickle… happy April Fools’ Day everyone!
Listen, Ronald might have been pulling your leg, but this is no whopper (although, technically, this is exactly what it is). Burger King has started selling an Impossible Whopper in St. Louis, made using a patty developed by the California-based Impossible Foods company. And get this, apparently it tastes just the same as the real thing.

Give over
That’s what the company says. According to Burger King’s North America president Christopher Finazzo, in a blind taste test with office staff, executives and franchisees, virtually nobody could tell the difference.

Burger King has had a veggie option on the menu for years, though. What’s so special about this one?
'Impossible' products are basically designed to mirror the look and texture of meat when cooked. They’re made using a genetically modified yeast that produces a protein called heme, which is designed to mimic the flavour of meat and make the patty ‘bleed’ like a conventional burger would. Burger King hopes this may be enough to encourage more meat-eaters to try it.

It sounds a little sinister to us.
There are criticisms, certainly. Last year US animal rights organization PETA wrote a blog complaining the burger had a high saturated fat content, and that one of its key ingredients, soy leghemoglobin, had been tested on rats. And while Burger King has said no one can tell the difference in taste, its customers will likely notice the difference in price; the Impossible Whopper is priced at about a dollar more than the original beef version.

So it’ll cost more than a regular burger and the health benefits are questionable. Why are we even talking about this then?
Because, like it or not, this isn’t a food trend that looks set to disappear anytime soon. Budget US burger chain White Castle already serves the Impossible Burger in restaurants across the States; in Sweden, McDonald’s serve a soy-based burger called the McVegan; and here in the UK Impossible’s biggest competitor, Beyond Meat, stock its meat-free burgers in Tesco, and they’re also available on the menu at Honest Burger’s restaurants.

This is more than a fad, then?
The evidence suggests as much. Every time a product like this launches, it creates a social media storm that draws in voices from both ends of the spectrum. Vegetarians celebrate inclusion while Piers Morgan dismisses it as political correctness gone mad. The sales speak for themselves, though. When Greggs launched a vegan sausage roll at the beginning of the year, it led to its sales topping a £1bn for the first time. The appetite for meat-free food is increasing, it’s up to restaurants both big and small to meet the demand.

Related topics: Trends & Reports

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