The Flexitarian’s Dilemma: Is Eating a Plant-Based “Burger” Going to Cut It?

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on Jul 17, 2019 9:00:00 AM
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Is Eating a Plant-Based “Burger” Going to Cut It? Burger King Sweden thinks so. In a recent article, “Burger King Sweden dares customers to order its plant-based menu items,” published in Restaurant Dive (July 8, 2019), by Robert Williams, the fast-food chain thinks it can possibly get a portion of its burger eaters to eat a plant-based version and attract vegans and vegetarians in the process. The premise is that customers purchase an item from the “50/50 menu” and are not told, nor does the wrapper indicate whether the burger is made from meat or plants. Honesty is key to the actual outcome of the data collected. One is supposed to bite into the burger, download an app, and guess if they have just sampled a meat or plant-based burger. Upon entering the information and scanning the code on the wrapper, the burger’s derivation is revealed. (Note the item is referred to as a burger, not a hamburger, which leads to wondering what a plant-based one will inevitably be called.)

Williams points out in his article that people looking for a non-meat meal replacement might be willing to take the risk that what they have in front of them could be meat and not plant-based, a strict vegetarian or vegan probably would not be willing to consume the item without knowing what it actually was. When fast-food chains started to offer salads as an alternative to the meat on the menu, it offered non-meat eaters a chance to slide into the cold booths and grab a quick meal with their fellow-burger eaters. Fast-food chains have glommed onto the assertion that if they offer seemingly healthier menu options, that they will attract a broader audience. “Flexitarian” is the term that Williams uses to refer to those who hover on the fence between carnivore and herbivore. And perhaps that is the target audience, rather than the person who is a devout vegetarian or vegan. A “flexitarian” is one who really sits on the carnivorous side, but ventures onto the vegetarian side for health reasons, or just to add some variety to the meal plan.

This is a trend that is not going away. As more and more people become conscientious about eating less meat, consuming more plant-based foods (naturally or formed into burger-type patties), non-meat, plant-based options will appear. Far beyond one’s own health, many are concerned for the health of the planet and the effect that meat production has had on the environment. Once upon a time, we just sat down to dinner. Not anymore. Each meal, each item, is now connected to a vast amount of education prior to sinking one’s teeth in. The fast-food chains get it. If they continue to serve only hamburgers because this is what they have always done, it will be reflected in the bottom line. Let’s give the benefit of the doubt that they are in line with helping to make the world a healthier place, and that by giving the options of plant-based items, they are helping to make this come true. 

Nonetheless, the question remains, do vegetarians and vegans give up eating meat because they do not like the taste or for ethical reasons, and are they willing to then add something back into their diet that tastes like and so closely resembles, well, meat.

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Topics: Operations, marketing, Restaurant Experience, Vegetarian

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