Fake it ’til you make it

Burger King has announced that it is rolling out its Impossible Whopper, a plant-based alternative to its classic Whopper, across the US.

The burger is made using patties from Impossible Foods, and ingredients include soy protein, potato protein, coconut oil, sunflower oil, and heme. Heme, a soy-based compound found in plants and meat, gives the patty a ‘bleeding’ property to better simulate the real thing. The burgers have 15% less fat and 90% less cholesterol than regular Whoppers.

My question is, and it may be my ignorance as I’m not a vegetarian myself, is what is the obsession with making meat-free products replicate the real thing so far as making them ‘bleed’?

Chatting to the resident vegetarian in the office, he’s not a fan. He says that when manufacturers make meat-free products too ‘meaty’, it alienates the vegetarian and vegan community: “If you want something that replicates meat so much, you may as well eat meat”. When choosing a meat-free patty, or for a fast food comparison a Veggie Deluxe from McDonald’s, “you know what you’re getting. It’s vegetarian, it’s meat free and it’s not trying to be something that it clearly isn’t.”

Earlier this year, a survey found that 1 in 4 consumers supported a ban on meat names for meat-free products such as sausage or burger.

Across all groups, 25% of respondents said manufacturers of vegetarian products should not be permitted to use meat-related names like sausage, burger or steak. Vegetarians were the least likely to disapprove of meat-related names, with only 18% supporting a ban. By contrast, 33% of vegans and 26% of meat-eaters said vegetarian products should not be allowed to have meat-related names.

The survey also revealed a significant difference between vegetarians and vegans when it came to purchasing decisions. Nearly half of the vegetarians surveyed (49%) said they were more likely to buy a meat-free product if it was labelled with a word such as sausage, burger or steak. However, only 19% of vegans said the same, with 57% saying they were less likely to buy a product if it carried a meat-related name.

Perhaps Burger King is trying to appeal to meat-eaters looking to cut down on their real meat intake, but are looking for something to easily transition them because they ‘just can’t live without bacon’. However they may be alienating full-time vegetarians and vegans in the process, who are stuck with a Veggie Deluxe which, let’s face it, isn’t that great.

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