Updated October 1, 2019. | Hungry Jack’s, the Australian fast food franchise of Burger King, just launched a vegan Whopper, thanks to billionaire owner Jack Cowin.
The new addition to the menu was spotted by a member of the Facebook group Vegans of Australia, who spotted a banner advertising the “Rebel Whopper” outside of a shopping center.
Investing in Vegan Meat
Last May, Hungry Jack’s invested $1 million to create a “bleeding” vegan meat patty. The patty will feature in a new vegan Whopper that will be available at all 440 Hungry Jack’s restaurants across the country within the year.
The owner of Hungry Jack’s, billionaire entrepreneur Cowin, teamed up with Australia’s national science agency, the CSIRO, to form a new company called v2food to make the plant-based meat, catering to Australia’s changing eating habits.
Speaking to The Australian Financial Review, the 76-year-old entrepreneur discussed his desire to continue moving up in the food industry. “I’m still all in, personally and business-wise,” he said, also noting, “I’m doing my best to wear out.”
The publication describes Cowin as “[t]he man who has done more than anyone to develop Australia’s taste for American fast food.” He was the first to bring KFC to Australia, he holds a more than $1 billion stake in Domino’s Pizza, and in 1971, founded his burger chain.
For companies that lean heavily on meat and dairy products, Cowin’s move toward plant-based food may surprise some. But the planet’s deteriorating state is demanding change.
The Australian Financial Review explained, “There is simply not enough arable land or water to produce the quantity of meat required to feed the world’s projected population in 2050, and that’s even before considering the environmental damage from the required jump in livestock numbers.”
Cowin said, “The challenge for the world is how do we feed 10 billion people. Having them all eating meat is a very inefficient way to do this.”
The Australian Financial Review noted that Cowin’s shift toward vegan food is an “opportunity” that could “protect his empire.” It could help Hungry Jack’s attract the more than 50 percent of Australians who don’t eat fast food, the 10 percent of vegetarian Aussies, and the 3 percent of vegans living in the country. On top of this, flexitarianism – a term coined for those who eat meat but reduce their intake of it for health, ethical, and environmental reasons – is becoming more popular than ever, offering a “big market” for Hungry Jack’s, Cowin said.
The Australian Financial Review pointed out the significance of the man who brought the Whopper to Australia “now trying to win over vegans.” The move “says a lot about his appetite for planning ahead,” the publication added, a nod toward the rapidly rising popularity of veganism.
A discussion on the future of food is what inspired the partnership between the CSIRO and Hungry Jack’s, uniting the CSIRO’s knowledge of science and Cowin’s experience in marketing, food processing, and distribution. It’s this collaboration that allows the product to get to market so quickly. “If anyone can do this, it should be us,” Cowin said.
Vegan Food at Hungry Jack’s
A Vegan Whopper would not be the first animal-free offering by the fast-food chain; Hungry Jack’s launched its Vegan Cheeseburger last year. The burger features salad, vegan mayo, dairy-free cheese, and two vegetable-based patties. The chain experienced a 50 percent increase in vegetarian sales following the launch. The veggie patty also features in a Vegan Brekky Muffin.
In Canberra, Australia’s capital, Hungry Jack’s has been trialling its “Kinda Meat” burger, which steps away from the vegetable patty and toward more realistic vegan beef. “People seem to like it,” Cowin commented.
At Burger King locations in the U.S (and soon, in Europe) a meaty vegan Whopper has been winning the hearts of many. The patty, made by plant-based meat brand Impossible Foods, is vastly better for the environment. Compared to conventional beef, it requires 75 percent less water and 95 percent less land to produce. It also generates 87 percent less greenhouse gas emissions and includes no artificial flavours, antibiotics, hormones, or cholesterol.
Hungry Jack’s isn’t the first to serve the plant-based Rebel Whopper — Burger King restaurants in Brazil and Sweden added it to the menu earlier this year.
In a bid to improve its impact on the planet further, Hungry Jack’s is working on removing plastic straws from its restaurants and replacing them with paper versions.