When Burger King started offering its Whopper version of the Impossible Burger on a nationwide basis, fans of the meatless wonder, the brainchild of Stanford University Professor Dr. Patrick O. Brown, were supremely happy. Here, at last, was a version of the popular burger that a vegan could love.
The popularity was part of the reason the chain had a great quarter. RBI, Restaurant Brands International, is the parent company of Burger King and recently announced that the successful launch of their Impossible Whopper drove comparable sales growth of 5% in the US. This was Burger King’s best growth since 2015. RBI’s Popeye’s chain did even better with their famous, and riotously received, chicken sandwich. Popeye’s saw its strongest sales growth in almost two decades.
Phillip Williams is suing Burger King because he says that the Impossible Whopper is cooked on the same grill where beef burgers are cooked, so the Impossible Whopper he ordered and received was not really vegan.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Impossible Burger Is a Meatless Vegan Alternative Made From Soy & Potato Proteins
The Impossible Burger had it debut in 2016 and was pretty much the answer to a lot of pleas for a vegan alternative to beef burgers that had the same “mouthfeel” as meat, or close to it. The meatless burger is made from soy and potato proteins, and the sizzling sounds on the grill are the result of the fat ingredients of coconut sunflower oils. The Impossible Burger even oozed a red juice like real meat, thanks to heme. The people behind Impossible Foods, discovered that it is heme that makes meat taste like meat.
According to the company’s website, heme, or “Soy leghemoglobin is short for legume hemoglobin — the hemoglobin found in soy, a leguminous plant. Leghemoglobin is a protein found in plants that carry heme, an iron-containing molecule that is essential for life.”
Regular meatless burgers are usually made with soy, lentils, or beans and don’t have the same texture as real beef.
“Unlike the cow, we get better at making meat every single day,” said CEO of Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown in an article posted on CNET. The company introduced an updated version, the 2.0, for cooking on a grill and has a better flavor with lower cholesterol, fat and calories than the original.
2. Phillip Williams Filed a Lawsuit Against Burger King
Williams is the plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against Burger King Corporation. He says that he is a vegan and that Burger King cooks its Impossible Burgers on the same grill on which beef burgers are grilled. This would mean that whatever was on the grill from cooking beef burgers could come into contact with the Impossible Burger.
The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, also calls for a jury trial.
Here is what the suit, says: “Plaintiff Phillip Williams, both individually and on behalf of similarly situated individuals, brings this Complaint against Burger King Corporation (Defendant) to put a stop to Defendant’s misleading practice of selling and marketing its “Impossible” Whopper burger as a meat-free food option. Despite Burger King’s representations that the Impossible Whopper uses the trademarked “Impossible Meat” that is well known as a meat-free and vegan meat alternative, Burger King cooks these vegan patties on the same grills as its traditional meat products, thus covering the outside of the Impossible Whopper’s meat-free patties with meat by-product.
Plaintiff Phillip Williams brings this action to obtain redress for all persons injured by Defendant Burger King’s deceptive and unlawful conduct. Plaintiff alleges as follows based upon personal knowledge as to his own acts and experiences, and as to all other matters, upon information and belief, including investigation conducted by his attorneys.”
3. Burger King and the Whopper Are Part of Burger History
Burger King’s signature offering was introduced about 10 years before McDonald’s brought out its Big Mac. In 1957, Burger King co-founder decided to bring out a burger that would beat the local competition that was touting an extra-large burger. According to Reader’s Digest, he came up with the name Whopper to connote a really big burger.
The Whopper proved to be a whopping success. A Halloween version was offered a few years back, called the Halloween Whopper. It was inspired by the Black Burger in Japan, and made with A-1 Steak sauce and food coloring, with a black bun covered with Sesame seeds.
Burger King’s “Angry Triple Whopper.” In 2009 there was even an Angry Triple Whopper with three beef patties, bacon, pepper jack cheese, Jalapeno peppers, “Angry” onions, tomatoes, lettuce and “Angry” sauce.
4. More Meatless Wonders Offer More Choices
Another meatless burger that is a rival to the Impossible Burger is the Beyond Meat Burger. It is available in restaurants like Subway, Dunkin’, TGI Fridays, Bareburger, and others. It is also for sale in supermarkets.
After Beyond Meat, based in Los Angeles, went public in May of this year, the company’s stock rose upwards of 450 percent. Beyond Meat also offers vegan versions of burgers and sausages. Unlike Impossible Meats, which is privately held, Beyond Meat seems to be taking some of the heat from the class-action lawsuit filed against Burger King for its Impossible Whopper, according to Barron’s.
5. There Have Been Other Lawsuits Around Meatless Fare
This is not the first time that a consumer has complained or filed a lawsuit because of an issue with the way a vegetarian or vegan meal was prepared and/or served.
Back in 2016, a New York consumer filed a lawsuit against Buffalo Wild Wings, Inc. saying the company misled vegetarian customers into believing they were offering vegetarian fare when some of the items were cooked in beef tallow.
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