Warning: this post might make you hungry. Don’t start reading until you are near food supplies.
Remember my blog post Meat the future a couple of months back? I had a look at the future of meat and came to the conclusion that we are at a moment in time that ‘heralds the end of the era of cardboard vegetarian burgers’. That was a bold statement, I admit.
The time has come to put my own claims to the test. One of the most famous and revolutionary vegetarian burgers in the world has finally made its way to Europe. Or Belgium to be more precise, to the kitchens of Greenway‘s restaurants. As first on the continent, they are introducing the Beyond Burger on their menu. Comes in a vegan bun, with a good portion of veggies and of course some vegan mayo to top it off. Do you already hear your stomach grumble?
And hence, this year September first does not only announce the beginning of a new school year, it also kicks off an endeavour to seduce die-hard meat lovers in Belgium to try vegetarian meat alternatives. The Silicon Valley-born Beyond Burger claims to mimic the real burger experience — from the sizzling in the pan to the bleeding of the patty — so closely you can’t tell the difference in a blind test.
As I wrote before on this blog, I am a vegetarian with little need for ‘the real meat experience’. But I know that many of my friends, and compatriots for that matter, do find it hard to eat less meat. I asked Cédric Hanet, managing partner of Greenway Foods, why they are convinced the Beyond Burger is so revolutionary.
Nearly all people like meat, and find it difficult to skip it even though they know it is not the option best for their health and the planet. It is just so tasty, let’s face it. The Beyond Burger offers an alternative that is much better for the environment without sacrificing flavour. This will create a societal turning point.
In the US the burger created a lot of fuzz when it was initially launched about two years ago. But did Greenway really need to look that far to find the best vegetarian burger on the planet?
Sometimes we are just too modest over here,’ says Cedric, who visited several companies working on the future of food in California. Over there, meat replacers are a big business by now. Companies like Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger were able to raise millions of dollars before they even finalised their product. Several years of research went into this. They also could set up massive publicity campaigns. It is difficult to pull something off at that scale in Europe.
Greenway chose to work with Beyond burger because ‘it was the tastiest vegetarian burger we have ever tried’, but also because the burger is made out of natural ingredients and does not contain soy or gluten. Which is not the case for their biggest competitor, the Impossible Burger, which also contains a GMO-ingredient which currently holds back its introduction in Europe.
But alright, enough talking. We all came for the food in the end, isn’t it? On the official launch day of the Beyond Burger, I rushed to the closest Greenway near me, ready to a be amazed.
A moment of panic. Are they sold out already? Or did they not arrive yet?
All good. They have them. One Beyond Burger, please.
The first bite, chewing slowly. I let the taste fill my mouth. Surprising.
I swallow. Haven’t made my mind up yet.
Second bite. Paying close attention to the structure of the burger this time.
Yes. Yes, this definitely feels and tastes like meat. The smokey flavour reminds me of summer barbecues.
I like it. I did not even know I still liked meat.
Then another bite, and another. The burger is gone before I know it. Damn, that was good. Worth every bit of the 13.5 euros.
I am happily surprised. After three years of vegetarianism, I was a little bit scared the close resemblance to meat would actually displease my taste buds. That’s luckily not the case. In fact, the Beyond Burger closely resembles meat without being all too pronounced. It is a very satisfying experience. From now on I can throw vegetarian barbecues without having to call them like that. I love it.
I can definitely see why Greenway, who aims to bring vegetarianism to the larger public, has fallen for the Beyond Burger. I can see this working as a large-scale meat replacer. Even more important, I think it can open the door to many other plant-based products. The times where veggie-burgers are tucked away in the corner of the supermarket fridge are over. The sustainable version of meat is here, and it is here to stay. Go try it out yourself!