Today, Burger King will add the Plant-Based Whopper to 325 locations in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Hangzhou across China. The new meatless burger is made with a vegan patty supplied by Dutch brand The Vegetarian Butcher—which was acquired by consumer goods company Unilever in 2019. The Vegetarian Butcher CEO Hugo Verkuil told Reuters that the brand plans to expand its plant-based patty to 1,300 additional Burger King locations in China in the first quarter of 2021. 

Plant-based Whoppers go global
In August 2019, Burger King first launched the Impossible Whopper—made with an Impossible Burger plant-based patty—at all of its locations across the United States. Since then, different versions of meatless Whoppers have made their way onto menus across the world, including the Rebel Whopper in Brazil (which features a plant-based patty produced by Marfrig Global Foods SA—the world’s largest producer of animal-based hamburgers); the Rebel Whopper in Sweden (where the patty is made by an undisclosed European brand which also supplies Swedish locations of the chain with the patty for a meatless Rebel Chicken King sandwich); the Plant-Based Whopper in Japan (made with a patty by Australian vegan brand v2food); and the Whopper Vegetal in Mexico (featuring a vegan patty made by The Vegetarian Butcher). 

While the plant-based patties at Burger King vary region to region, Unilever signed a deal with the chain last year to supply The Vegetarian Butcher’s patty to 25 countries in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. With the launch in China, Unilever announced it is expanding its partnership with Burger King to supply its patties in countries throughout Latin America, China, and the Caribbean. Unilever aims to open production facilities in Latin America and China to accommodate the expansion of its plant-based patties to Burger King locations in these regions. 

Vegan mayo at Burger King?
From the Impossible Whopper to the Rebel Whopper, Burger King’s global meatless burger offerings are typically served with egg-based mayonnaise but that may soon change according to Carla Hilhorst, European Vice President for Research and Development at Unilever Foods and Refreshment—which produces vegan mayonnaise under its Hellmann’s brand. “We have launched vegan mayonnaise in a number of markets not, including in the UK. One of the things you can look at from a channel point of view is our For Solutions channel—more business-to-business, but also the QSR (quick-service restaurant) channel,” Hilhorst told Foodmanufacture UK. “If you become the chosen supplier for Burger King on the plant=based Whopper, then of course we are very willing to engage those types of customers—our vegan mayonnaise could also be an option. It’s not a done deal, but for us those are opportunities.” Hilhorst added that the opportunity could also materialize in Unilever providing vegan mayonnaise packets for customers rather than having the condiment applied by employees onto burgers.

The growing Burger King partnership is part of Unilever’s goal to increase sales of its plant-based meat and dairy products to $1.2 billion by 2027, representing a five-fold increase of its current sales in the category.

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