Burger King announced the roll out of its new “Impossible Whopper” across America.
The original Whopper is the fast food chain’s signature burger. A flame-grilled quarter-pounder beef burger, topped with tomatoes, lettuce, mayonnaise, pickles and onions on a sesame seed bun.
The new “Impossible” variant has all the same ingredients, but with the beef burger taken out.
In its place is a purely plant-based alternative. Soy and potato provide the protein. Coconut and sunflower oil add the fat content. There’s an organic “binder”, called methylcellulose, to keep it all together. And then there’s the secret ingredient, heme.
Heme is an essential molecule found in every living plant, and it is what makes meat taste like meat. But in this case, it is created from a fermented yeast. So this burger is 100% plant-based. But it tastes much more like the “real” thing, than the drab veggie burgers of yesteryear.
That’s important to Burger King
They want to keep their brand intact whilst broadening appeal. After successful trials they are confident of rolling it out across the USA. Hopefully it will come to the UK soon after that.
Reducing red meat consumption is the key food trend in the developed world. In a 2015 poll in the USA, two thirds of consumers said they had reduced their intake. A 2018 poll showed that as many as one in eight Britons are vegan or vegetarian.
Beef production in particular is a real environmental challenge. On a per calorie basis, beef needs 160 times more land, and produces 11 times more greenhouse gases than arable staples such as potatoes. So switching to a “planet-friendly” diet, and reducing meat consumption, is one of the ways that many people are reducing their environmental footprint.
Demand for meat alternatives is soaring
And when that happens, businesses react. Established food companies are fighting for market share with nimble start-ups. And investors are salivating.
Burger King’s supplier is Impossible Foods. It may soon be listed on the stock exchange. Its latest private fundraising in May this year valued it at $2bn. It already has a listed competitor, Beyond Meat.
Beyond Meat’s performance since its own IPO in May has been incredible. Even more so, for a company which is still making heavy losses. Some people think the stock is too speculative until there is some visibility on profitability. There is also a concern about competition. Even before the Impossible Burger has arrived, there are several competing products already widely available in London.
In the meantime, there are some other options that have lower risk exposure to planet-friendly food chains. One such company is DSM which earns the majority of its revenue from improving nutrition. For farm animals, this improves the yield from scarce resources.
This month DSM also announced a milestone for a great innovation it has been pursuing. The company has filed for EU authorisation for its methane-reducing feed additive for dairy cows. This magical ingredient will reduce methane production by around 30%. It suppresses an enzyme in the cow’s stomach that produces methane, and then breaks down harmlessly.
Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. So, the global impact of this product could be huge. And it is just one of a slew of similar exciting technologies DSM is working on.
Investing in environmental related stocks is an interesting and quickly growing new area that you might like to consider as part of your investment portfolio. And in the meantime, you can look forward to that Whopper.