Chains are jumping on the meat-substitute bandwagon but some experts say vegetarian options could boost beef sales
The moment I walk out of Burger King with a warm bag of vegetarian Impossible Whoppers, a plastic voucher is thrust into my hand. Have you tried Dunkin Donuts Beyond Sausage breakfast sandwich? a woman asks. It is meatless!
Dunkin (formerly Dunkin Donuts) is testing its meatless sandwich in Manhattan using Beyond Meat protein. The woman was a brand ambassador handing out gift cards to people buying Burger Kings latest vegetarian menu addition and who might want to take their newfound taste for meatless fast food to rival outlets.
A decade ago, this development and the fanfare accompanying the Impossible Whopper would have been unimaginable in Americas powerful and ubiquitous fast-food industry.
Fast forward to 2019 and every employee inside a midtown Manhattan Burger King is wearing an Impossible Whopper shirt. There is an Impossible Whopper-themed photo-booth. Customers can try the beef Whopper and Impossible Whopper side-by-side for $7.
In this hopeful moment, it is easy to imagine a fast-food future where all the meat is plant-based, entire menus are vegetarian, and the environmental footprint of these convenience foods is significantly reduced helping stop a climate crisis scientists warn we have only 11 years left to tackle.
Veggie options no longer vie for a dusty corner of the menu in fast-food chains. Now they are jockeying to appeal to climate-conscious young people. Plant-based choices are nearly indistinguishable from their meat counterparts.
Early indications are that demand for plant-based proteins will continue to grow, said Tony Weisman, chief marketing officer with Dunkin US. He said the company intended to roll out its new Beyond Sausage sandwich nationally soon.
Given the importance of environmental sustainability among consumers, and especially younger consumers, indications are that demand for plant-based meats will continue to increase as time goes on, he added.
Two-thirds of Gen Z believe the climate crisis demands urgent action, according to the Harvard Public Opinion Project. Given the enormous environmental impact of industrialized meat, companies like Impossible Foods want to drive it into obsolescence. But whether health-conscious young people will come out in droves for plant-based fast food remains to be seen.
The Impossible Whopper is the newest incarnation of a soy-based, genetically engineered veggie burger created by the Silicon Valley company Impossible Foods. It is nearly indistinguishable from the beef Whopper, both in taste and nutrition.
Its sloppy with wilted lettuce, tomatoes, mayonnaise, ketchup and pickles. It smells enticing, it is even craveable, and as with the real thing, I feel awful after eating it. Not guilty literally unwell.