Unilever Extends Partnership with Burger King to Launch Artificial Meat Whopper in China

Consumer goods company Unilever announced on Wednesday to expand its partnership with fast-food chain Burger King on the artificial meat Whopper in Europe, China, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

The product, which will be named Plant-Based Whopper (植物基“皇堡”) on the Chinese menu, is made using patties from Vegetarian Butcher, a meat substitute brand under Unilever. 

The cooperation between the two companies began in 2019, a year after Vegetarian Butcher was acquired by Unilever. Vegetarian Butcher started by supplying plant-based patties for Burger King’s flagship product, the Rebel Whopper, which was first launched in its European stores. 

However, the Rebel Whopper was not Burger King’s debut in artificial meat. The company has sold several versions of meat-free Whopper burgers before, including one in collaboration with Impossible Meats in the U.S.

The Plant-Based Whopper will be available in 325 Burger King stores in major cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hangzhou in China from Wednesday. The company plans to promote it nationwide in the second quarter of next year. 

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The expansion marks a milestone for the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant to realize the new global annual sales target announced on Nov. 18, which is to sell 1 billion euros (approximately 7.8 billion yuan) of plant-based meat and dairy substitutes in the next five to seven years. This target turnover is five times its previously estimated sales in 2020 in this category, which was 200 million euros.

Vegetarian Butcher is not alone in helping the parent company achieve this ambition. Revenue also comes from other subordinates under Unilever, including ice cream brands Ben&Jerry’s, Magnum and Wall’s, as well as mayonnaise manufacturer Hellmann’s. 

Unilever claims that vegetarian/non-dairy products are one of the fastest-growing in the world: Ben & Jerry’s launched plant-based ice cream made from almond milk and currently has 11 flavors. In 2019, Magnum released non-dairy velvety vanilla-flavored ice cream. Cornetto has spun off mini vegan and gluten-free ice cream in lemon and peach flavors. And Solero launched organic and vegan ice cream lollipops in some countries.