Hungry Jack’s, the Australian franchise of Burger King, is stepping into the meaty plant-based burger game with a whopper investment of… a million bucks?
The Australian Financial Review reported today that the founder Hungry Jack’s, Jack Cowin, has invested $1 million to develop a vegan burger made from legumes that looks, tastes, and even bleeds like real meat. It will be sold in their new vegan Whopper, which Hungry Jack’s will sell at all 400 locations across Australia by this summer. The forthcoming burger is being developed by v2food, a company founded by Cowin, in tandem with Australia’s national science agency, with the goal of developing better tasting meat alternatives.
That’s a noble mission, but I’m not sure how realistic it is with only $1 million behind it. For context, Impossible Foods has raised over $687 million and Beyond Foods had amassed $122 million before its IPO last month. Put next to those figures, $1 million looks like a drop in the bucket. There’s probably some knowledge that v2food can glean from forerunners like Beyond and Impossible, but R&D for food products is extremely expensive.
v2food is also working on a very tight timeline. Hungry Jack’s has announced it will have the plant-based Whopper out by sometime mid-year, which basically gives them three months tops to develop a new burger and start producing it at scale. The fast-food chain already can leverage its own established production facilities, but if they need any new equipment to make the plant-based burger, scaling could actually present a challenge.
It would have been easier for the company to just roll out a new Whopper made with “beef” from Beyond Meat or Impossible Foods, as Burger King is doing in the U.S. Impossible isn’t in Australia yet (possibly due to tighter restrictions on genetically modified food), though Beyond is. Maybe Hungry Jack’s is hoping it will be cheaper — at least in the long run — to develop their own patty. Though by taking that path, they won’t be able to leverage Beyond or Impossible’s brand recognition as a tool to entice new customers.
Concerns aside, Hungry Jack’s is smart to cash in on the growing demand for plant-based burgers. They just might need to invest a lot more cash in order to make it happen.