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Burger King’s ‘plant-based Whopper’ goes global

Powered by Unilever’s The Vegetarian Butcher, the Whopper will now be available in Latin America, China and the Caribbean.

The Whopper, for most people, is a meat burger and the most popular offering from QSR giant Burger King (BK). Not many would have expected to see a plant-based Whopper in their lives. This burger’s patty is made from plant-based sources.

The global meat substitutes sector is worth $20.7 billion and is set to grow to $23.2 billion by 2024, market research company Euromonitor told CNBC.

In November 2019, Unilever announced that its The Vegetarian Butcher brand had become the supplier of the plant-based ‘Rebel Whopper’ to BK outlets across Europe.

Nearly a year later, in December 2020, The Vegetarian Butcher announced that it had expanded its successful partnership with the BK brand to launch the plant-based Whopper in Latin America, China and the Caribbean.

The plant-based Whopper is available in 325 BK outlets across Chinese cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hangzhou, with nationwide roll-out plans from Q2 2021.

It is designed specifically for ‘flexitarians’, meat lovers who want to reduce their consumption without having to sacrifice taste and texture. In Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), BK expanded its menus in 2020 with plant-based nuggets, also supplied by The Vegetarian Butcher.

Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia, Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Suriname, Saint Martin and Saint Kitts were the first Latin American and Caribbean countries to add the plant-based Whopper to their BK menus.

Hugo Verkuil, CEO of The Vegetarian Butcher, said, “One year on from the start of our partnership with Burger King, we are delighted to bring our plant-based products into new markets in Latin America, the Caribbean and China. The plant-based Whopper has proven a popular and delicious option for flexitarians and meat lovers across Europe, and we are excited to take this into two new continents.”

“The plant-based Whopper, launched in over 35 countries, has been a real game changer and become one of the biggest launches in the brand’s history. Innovation is one of our core brand values, and this launch is no exception. We are really excited about these additional launches in China and Latin America to provide our guests with this alternate Whopper,” said Matt Banton, global head of innovation and sustainability at BK.

Impossible Foods supplies the plant-based meat patties to BK outlets in the US, while Marfrig is the exclusive supplier in Brazil.

“The Vegetarian Butcher’s mission is to become the largest butcher in the world by offering amazingly tasty products and inspiring a food revolution that promotes more sustainable options. Today’s news is a significant step towards this ambition.”

The expansion news comes in light of Unilever’s ambitious December 2020 announcement, wherein it had set a global sales target of €1 billion from plant-based meat and dairy alternatives, within the next 5-7 years.

The consumer goods giant had said: “The growth will be driven by the roll-out of The Vegetarian Butcher as well as increasing vegan alternatives from brands, including Hellmann’s, Magnum and Wall’s.”

Domino’s Pizza, in December 2020, introduced ‘The Unthinkable Pizza’, India’s first plant protein-based product. As per the brand, it is “made entirely from plant-based proteins, The Unthinkable Pizza is 100 per cent vegetarian, and yet has the sensory properties of chicken.”