Plant-based burger

Nearly one in 10 Canadians consider themselves vegetarians or vegans, according to a recent Dalhousie University study, about double the proportion in the U.S. (Photo by Daniel Neuhaus)

Features | From Pivot Magazine

Meat your match

The secret weapon to get vegans into a burger joint: a veggie patty that doesn’t taste like cardboard 

A Facebook IconFacebook A Twitter IconTwitter A Linkedin IconLinkedin An Email IconEmail

The gamble:

California-based Beyond Meat produces vegetarian takes on carnivorous standards like burgers, sausages and chicken strips. But unlike the cardboard-like iterations of meatless fare currently sitting neglected at the back of your freezer, Beyond Meat products taste freakishly close to the real thing, with more protein and none of the cholesterol. The sausages crack and pop, the burgers ooze grease (the secret is coconut oil). The company, which sells its wares in the meat aisles of several American supermarket chains, wants to break into Canada for good reason: nearly one in 10 Canadians consider themselves vegetarians or vegans, according to a recent Dalhousie University study, about double the proportion in the U.S. What’s more, half of those plant-munchers are under the age of 35—a massive, upwardly mobile and largely untapped market.

The plan:

For the Canadian rollout of its burgers (which contain beets, yellow peas and potatoes, among other things), Beyond Meat chose the country’s 925 A&W restaurants. Though the chain has experimented with its own vegetarian burger, it is known primarily for its celebration of ground cow. Yet it wasn’t a hard sell, according to Beyond Meat chief growth officer Chuck Muth. “They were looking at the demand for plant-based options, particularly amongst millennials, who are driving a lot of growth today,” he says. “Far and away, our biggest consumer group is millennials, and Gen Z after them.” 

The result:

“The launch exceeded even our most optimistic expectation,” says Muth. Though A&W did not share specific sales data, online reviews were favourable. What’s next? Beyond Meat’s foray into A&W serves two purposes: to wet the collective whistle of Canadian vegetarians and vegans, who are generally underserved by meat-heavy restaurant chains. 

It is also an introduction to its retail products—burgers, sausages, chicken strips and faux ground beef—which are likely to hit Canadian supermarket shelves soon. “Canada is a very good consumer base for us,” says Muth. “Not only is there a bigger percentage of vegetarians in Canada, but also a bigger concentration of health-conscious consumers.”