Making sense of Burger King’s plant-based Whopper: Genius or just marketing fluff?

If you weren’t paying as close attention to the happenings of Singapore’s fast-moving food scene the way my writers and I do, then it’s likely that you missed a significant announcement by Burger King last week. You’d think that the launch of Burger King’s plant-based WHOPPER® (from S$6.90 a la carte) would be cause for celebration and parades on the street, especially since BK holds the OG crown for all things beef burgers in Singapore.

But, instead, what I observed was a largely muted response from the Internet (and we know how cruel they can be), which was strangely encouraging. I’ll explain myself in a bit.

What I tried

Photo of Burger King Plant Based Whopper with Fries and a drink

But before I get too far ahead of myself, first, the review proper.

The Burger King plant-based WHOPPER® is the fast-food giant’s partnership with The Vegetarian Butcher and can be bought a la carte or as part of a meal that gets you a drink and fries. The only thing that separates this iteration from the usual WHOPPER® is a green rectangle sticker on the paper wrapping, which further drives the homogeneity of the two. Inside, the burger comes with the usual WHOPPER® ingredients of tomatoes, onions, thinly sliced pickles, ketchup, and mayonnaise.

As someone who eats only the beef burgers at BK, I thought this plant-based patty was… alright. It’s not terrible, hardly, but to say it’s groundbreaking and life-changing would be a tad too much of a stretch—even the best restaurants in Singapore struggle with creating plant-based patties that elicit a drawl of satisfaction.

But with BK’s iteration, I would go out on a limb and say that the flame-grilled smokiness of The Vegetarian Butcher’s plant-based patty is more apparent here without the characteristic flavour of beef to fight for attention. What would make this better is if it had two patties instead of one. And if BK offered this as an option in their Double Mushroom Swiss Burger, I’ll be one happy camper.

Burger King Plant Based Whopper advertisement on a green background
Credit – Burger King

I’ve eaten enough plant-based products to never expect a one to one replication of the meat equivalent—that would be foolish and unrealistic. Still, BK tries, and if you’re coming from a meat-leaning diet, you would appreciate the juiciness of this version. On the other hand, if you’re a practising meat-less consumer, then I’m glad to report that the plant-based WHOPPER® is a close 90% replica of its beef form.

Plus, at the price you’re paying, there’s hardly much to complain about. And this is from observing Singaporeans have a complete and total freak-out over hawker centres increasing the price of drinks by twenty cents. Its S$6.90 price tag effectively democratizes plant-based products, ensuring it’s within easy reach of consumers ready to embark on a meatless lifestyle.

Final thoughts

A fast-food chain launching plant-based products are nothing new. Still, given the world we live in now, Burger King’s acceptance of this movement so readily into their menu is a green light for other mass consumer products to follow suit. That BK chose their signature WHOPPER to introduce this innovation to the public is valiant and symbolic of their confidence in this diet picking up speed.

It couldn’t come at a better time when the public is accepting (and in many ways, demanding) of mass consumer brands ensuring inclusivity in the food they offer. It shows in the lack of fanfare from the general public upon Burger King’s announcement of their plant-based offering, not from disinterest, but because, unlike three years ago, plant-based options are now a norm, a rule rather than an expectation.

Sliced shot of Burger King Plant-based whopper

It’s change that we can all take pride in, where the intersections of food inclusivity, concern for Earth’s well-being, and a conglomerate’s business goal of turning a profit meet. Whether this is the best that companies like BK can do is still up for debate, but if you were to ask me, they’re doing as good a job as they possibly can without the dramatic theatrics of reworking their entire menu to a plant-based one.

The hope is, of course, that other fast-food brands take the cue and start offering plant-based options as well. Whether this move by Burger King is genius or simply marketing fluff is still up for debate. Cynics would say they’re doing this to reap healthy profits—as if that’s not one of the essential functions of a business—while optimists cite such a move as a way to coerce other brands to do the same.

For me, and this publication, such a move can only be for the greater good—a way to achieve equilibrium between the familiarity of flavours and a bigger goal of being more conscious of what we eat. As a consumer, that’s probably the best win-win there ever is.

*This post is brought to you in collaboration with The Vegetarian Butcher.