Burger King has launched its plant-based Rebel Whopper in the U.K. — but vegetarians and vegans will probably turn their noses up at it.
The new Whopper, made available Monday to those who download the Burger King app, is "100% plant-based" but will be cooked on the same grill as Burger King's regular beef Whopper burgers.
A disclaimer on Burger King's U.K. website states: "The Rebel Whopper is plant-based; however, it is cooked on the same broiler as our original Whopper to deliver the same unique flame-grilled taste. Due to shared cooking equipment it may not be suitable for vegetarians."
The Rebel Whopper is aimed at "flexitarians," according to an emailed release from Burger King, and is made by Unilever-owned company The Vegetarian Butcher. It is the latest push by the fast-food chain, owned by Restaurant Brands International, to capitalize on the plant-based food trend — it announced in November that the Rebel Whopper would be made available in 2,400 locations in 20 European countries.
In the U.S., Burger King's meat alternative Impossible Whopper grew restaurant visits, according to early research by Barclays in October. But it has attracted attention for not being vegan-friendly, because it too is cooked on grills where meat is also handled — a November lawsuit from a vegan customer accused Burger King of contaminating its meatless burgers.
Whether plant-based food has been cooked on the same grill as a meat burger makes "no difference" to those trying to cut down on their meat consumption, according to Toni Vernelli, head of international communications and marketing at Veganuary, who was quoted in a press release issued by Burger King U.K. on Monday.
"What does make a big difference to animals and the planet is when non-vegans choose a plant-based menu option, enjoy it and then order it again," Vernelli added.
Burger King's Veggie Bean Burger and Kids Veggie Burger are cooked separately, the company confirmed.
The Rebel Whopper patty itself is vegan, with its main ingredients being soy, wheat, vegetable oil, herbs and onion, according to a Burger King spokesperson, and it will be served in a bun with mayonnaise. But it is cooked on a grill that handles meat so it tastes like a regular Whopper, according to the company's U.K. Marketing Director Katie Evans. "We wanted our first plant-based Whopper to replicate the indulgence and flame-grilled taste of the real thing as closely as possible," she said in a press release.