Nestlé next to launch 'convincing' vegetarian burgers

Vegetarian Incredible Burger from Garden Gourmet, a Nestlé label.
Photo: Nestlé

Nestlé will be launching vegetarian burgers that could pass for the real deal in order to compete with the popular Impossible and Beyond burgers. However, the agricultural committee of the European Parliament believes they should be called by a different name.


Awesome or Incredible Burger

Nestlé's new vegetarian burger will be released in the US as the Awesome Burger. This Autumn, Nestlé subsidiary Sweet Earth will begin the distribution of the veggie burger, which is supposed to look and taste like a real hamburger.

In Europe, a similar 'Incredible Burger' will be available under the Garden Gourmet label as soon as this month. These veggie burgers are distinct from other meat substitutes in that they are barely distinguishable from traditional beef hamburgers.


Sizzles and bleeds while frying

The Garden Gourmet Incredible Burger, for example, is 100% plant-based, with natural proteines from soy and wheat. Herbal extracts from red beets, carrots and sweet peppers are used to create the appearance of a beef burger before, during and after baking. They even sizzle like a normal hamburger while you fry them, according to Nestlé.

"Many consumers recognise that less meat in their diet is good for them and for the planet, but plant-based meat substitutes often don't meet their expectations. The new hamburgers will even have meat lovers enjoy a veggie hamburger that hardly differs from a traditional burger," explains Wayne England, head of food business at Nestlé. 

European farmers against veggie burgers and soy milk

The new vegetarian burger will initially be launched this month in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. The question is whether Nestlé will still be allowed to call it a 'burger', as the agricultural committee of the European Parliament voted in favour of a ban on meat names for vegetarian products by a large majority (25 to 6).

Farmers don't want meat substitutes to be called 'burger' or 'steak' anymore. In an attempt to curb the growing popularity of plant-based alternatives, soy milk and other herbal drinks should also not go by the name of 'milk'. The vote was made as part of the development of a new European agricultural policy which will be completed by 2021.

Whether the ban will ever be enforced is far from certain: the agricultural committee's proposal will have to be voted on by the overarching European Parliament (after the May elections) and afterwards the member states and the European Commission will have to agree on it. Wayne England believes plant-based food is here to stay. He said that "consumers look at different ways to enjoy and balance their protein intake and lower the environmental footprint of their diets".