Hungry Jack's and CSIRO scientists to develop meat-free Whopper

Hungry Jacks. Photo: Supplied

It’s not every day you see scientists backing product development by fast food giants. But Australia’s scientific research agency, the CSIRO, is doing exactly that, as it announces its venture capital arm is launching a company with the owner of iconic burger chain Hungry Jack’s.

Investment manager Main Sequence Ventures, which manages the CSIRO Innovation Fund, has entered into a partnership with Hungry Jack’s parent company Competitive Foods Australia to establish v2Food, a manufacturer of “sustainable meat alternative” food products. A spokesperson for v2Food told Business Insider Australia the company will be a joint venture with a 50-50 ownership structure between the two unlikely partners.

Among the new company’s initiatives will be to reinvent the Hungry Jack’s Whopper, developing and distributing a plant-based alternative version of the iconic hamburger. Though the company remains tight-lipped at this stage about exactly what the recipe might look like.

“The ‘v2whopper’ burger is still in its development stages with our team at the CSIRO at the moment,” v2food CEO Nick Hazell told Business Insider Australia. “However, without giving away our secrets the base ingredient for this meat substitute will be a legume like pea or bean, which have a fantastic protein profile for this kind of application.”

Jack Cowin, the billionaire owner of Hungry Jack’s, said the partnership is a reaction to demand for environmentally sustainable products from Australian consumers.

“We want to create an alternative version of the classic Whopper that Australians know and love, at a price ordinary consumers can afford, to answer to the environmentally sustainable movement that we’re now seeing,” Cowin said in a statement announcing the joint venture.

“v2food will draw on the world-leading food science expertise of CSIRO to help pave an eco-friendly future, and we’re proud that Competitive Foods will play an active role in bringing the future of food to the mass consumer market.”

CSIRO official Professor Martin Cole said population growth was making innovation in sustainable food production a priority.

“The rapid growth of our population is straining our environment and putting food security at risk, and at the same time, our eating habits are less healthy than ever before,” said Cole, who is deputy director of agriculture and food at the CSIRO.

“Industry needs to be part of the solution to developing innovative new foods that are healthier and more sustainable.”

The joint venture follows the release of the Hungry Jack’s vegan range in Australia in October 2018.

The Australian developments follows similar initiatives by fast food retailers in the US, including the ‘Impossible Whopper’ product being trialled by Burger King, the franchisor of Hungry Jack’s.

Meat substitute manufacturer Beyond Meat is one of the US stockmarket success stories of 2019 so far, with shares surging 163% after listing on the Nasdaq earlier this month.

Google search activity for the term ‘vegan food’ in Australia has risen steadily since January 2013, with a peak in December 2018, according to Google Trends.

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