Burger King is going big on plant-based meat.
In August, the burger chain started selling the Impossible Whopper throughout the United States. The meatless version of its signature burger has been so successful that Burger King is launching a plant-based "Rebel" Whopper across Europe, and it's testing more plant-based options, including the Impossible Whopper Jr. and a new Impossible Burger, in the United States.
Restaurant chains have been enthusiastically adding plant-based options to their menu to attract eaters who want to reduce their meat intake for health and environmental reasons. That demographic has been helping to drive a potentially lucrative sector: Barclays predicts that alternative meat could reach about $140 billion in sales over the next decade, capturing about 10% of the global meat industry.
For Burger King, the bet on plant-based meat has been extremely successful.
During an analyst call discussing third quarter results for Restaurant Brands International, which owns Burger King, CEO José Cil called the Impossible Whopper "a huge hit," adding that the burger "has quickly become one of the most successful product launches in Burger King's history."
The launch helped accelerate US sales. In the third quarter, sales at domestic restaurants open at least a year grew 5% — the brand's strongest growth rate since 2015 and a "significant acceleration" compared to the first two quarters of the year, said Cil.
The Impossible Whopper helped drive the increase by both drawing in new or lapsed customers. And because people who buy Impossible Whoppers are often meat eaters, they treat the meatless option as an addition to — rather than a replacement of — their regular Burger King orders.
Inspired by the Impossible Whopper's popularity, Burger King launched an early version of the Rebel Whopper in Sweden earlier this year.
And on Tuesday it started selling the Rebel Whopper in over 20 markets and 2,400 restaurants in Europe. The Vegetarian Butcher makes the Rebel Whopper patties. The company produces vegan and vegetarian alternatives to meats like bacon, chicken, meat and tuna, and is owned by Unilever.
In the United States, Burger King has continued its partnership with Impossible Foods, a private company, to test out more options in 180 restaurants in Milwaukee, Cedar Rapids, Augusta, Cincinnati and Buffalo.
In addition to the Whopper Junior, those locations are trialing an Impossible Burger with pickles, mustard and ketchup on a toasted sesame seed bun, which is also available as a cheeseburger or in a kids meal.