Move over vegan curry, pub-goers across the UK will get an even bigger choice of vegan food options this week when the JD Wetherspoon chain adds its first ever fake-meat burger to its staple range of patties.
Following a successful six-month trial in 40 of its pubs, the group is putting plant-based burgers made by the UK startup The Meatless Farm on the menu of all 880 of its UK outlets.
The move represents a major UK expansion by The Meatless Farm, the Leeds-based rival of the US giants Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat, which was launched only two years ago.
The Meatless Farm already sells its plant-based mince, burger and sausages in Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Booths and the Co-op in the UK. Its products use a blend of ingredients including pea, soy and rice protein, chicory root and carrot fibre and are gluten-free. Since August they have also been rolled out to 600 Whole Foods Market shops in the US.
Wetherspoon’s head of catering, Jameson Robinson, said: “We are keen to offer vegetarian and vegan pub-goers an excellent choice of meals to enjoy at Wetherspoon. The plant-based burger is a great addition to the menu and we are confident that it will prove popular with vegetarians and vegans as well as those who eat meat.”
The company recorded growing demand for vegetarian and vegan meals for young and older customers alike, Robinson added.
Manufacturers, retailers, restaurants and pubs are all scrambling to cash in on a changing food landscape as UK consumers embrace flexitarian diets – where a largely vegetable-based diet is occasionally supplemented with meat – and experiment with meat alternatives and plant-based eating. The UK has an estimated 22 million flexitarians, who enjoy meat but want to reduce their consumption.
Wetherspoon’s sells millions of burgers every year, and most of its outlets have a standard range of 13 on the menu, with options for customers to “personalise” their choice. It already offers a vegetable burger – suitable for vegetarians – as well as the new vegan burger. Most of its pubs now sell 10 vegan main meals, including filled jacket potatoes, salads, a chilli and a curry, but it is keen to give diners more choice.
The chain – known for its value for money food and drink offering – has been discreetly brushing up its vegan credentials. It pushed to ensure that the Heinz “no added sugar” baked beans it serves were reformulated to be vegan, following a storm of protest from the vegan community.
In another unlikely move for the pub group, it recently started selling trendy kombucha – a fermented sweet tea touted for its many health benefits – in cherry plum and ginger lemon flavours.
Morten Toft Bech, the founder of The Meatless Farm, said: “We set up the brand to try to reduce global meat consumption. We are delighted that our products are going into Wetherspoon’s after a hugely successful trial, with sales four times more than we were expecting.”
The company was also currently involved with a trial of the burger with pub group Greene King, he added.
Last year Marston’s became the first national pub chain to put the UK’s first meatless burgers on its menus, as part of a deal with UK manufacturer Moving Mountains.